Wage Orders 4 and 5 have long permitted employees in the “healthcare industry” who work longer than 8 hours in a day to voluntarily waive one of their two meal periods.
However, on February 10, 2015, California’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal ruled in Gerard v. Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center that these provisions of Wage Orders 4 and 5 violated California Labor Code §512(a). That Labor Code statute states that employees may waive their second meal period only then there shift is “no more than 12 hours.” To the extent that Wage Orders 4 and 5 contained provisions allowing healthcare industry employees to waive their second meal periods for shifts longer than 12 hours, the Gerard court ruled that those provisions in Wage Orders 4 and 5 were void.
As a result of Gerard, employees in the healthcare industry who by waiver (or otherwise) are denied a second meal period for shifts longer than 12 hours may now sue their employers for damages, including “premium pay” under California Labor Code §226.7 equal to one hour of pay for each meal period not provided.
California employers in the healthcare industry should therefore review (and, if necessary, revise) their meal period policies to ensure that employees who work over 12 hours are guaranteed their right to an off-duty meal period of at least 30 minutes.
You can read the Court’s decision in Gerard v. Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center here.