Employers Are Not "Big Brother" and Cannot Force Employees to Actually Take Breaks

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In Hernandez v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., published October 28, 2010, the California Court of Appeal held that, while employers must provide employees with breaks, they need not ensure employees actually take their breaks.

Rogelio Hernandez (Hernandez) brought this class action against Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. for allegedly denying employees meal and rest breaks. In moving for certification, Hernandez submitted statistical evidence allegedly showing that a overwhelming majority of employees missed their breaks, e.g. 92% of employees missed at least one meal break.

Chipolte also filed a motion, but to deny certification, and it presented evidence of a company-wide policy encouraging meal and rest breaks. As noted by the Court, Chipotle provides employees with free food and beverages during breaks. Because Chipotle paid employees during breaks, the employee time records may not reflect whether breaks were actually taken.

In determining whether certification was appropriate, both the trial court and appellate court addressed the legal issue of whether employers must only provide breaks, or whether employers must also ensure that breaks are actually taken.

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