Unionized Employers Exempt from California Meal Period and Rest Break Laws

By March 16, 2018Articles

In Zayers v. Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., (C.D. Cal. 2018), the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California held that certain industry employers are exempt from the Labor Code’s meal and rest break requirements when their employees are subject to a valid collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The Court granted summary judgment for the employer Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. after Zayers, an hourly employee, sued the company claiming that it did not provide meal and rest periods as required by California law.

Kiewit, a construction company, employed Zayers for roughly four months in 2015, “as an hourly, non-exempt Labor Journeyman.” Zayers alleged that Kiewit did not provide his work crew employees with a third rest break during shifts exceeding ten hours or pay premium wage if employees waived the third break. He further alleged that in shifts over ten hours, Kiewit did not always provide the crew with a second meal period or the premium wage if employees waived the second meal period.

Under California Labor Code § 512(a) and Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders, California employers must provide hourly employees with both uninterrupted rest periods (at least ten minutes per every four hours of work) and uninterrupted meal periods (at least thirty minutes per every five hours of work). An employer’s failure to provide the prescribed rest and meal periods requires payment of rest break and/or meal period premium equal to one hour of regular pay to an aggrieved employee.

However, California’s rest period and meal break laws do not apply to employees that are covered by a CBA and employed in either the construction, transportation or security services industries or by a gas, electric or public utility company. The CBA must provide, among other things, employees’ hours, meal periods and final and binding arbitration terms to resolve disputes about meal period provisions contained therein. See Labor Code §§ 512(e), (f).

In addition, unionized employers may also be exempt from California’s paid sick leave and overtime laws pursuant to Labor Code Sections 245.5 and 514.

So strangely enough, there are some benefits to being unionized in California.