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My California employer has allowed me to work through lunch but now wants me to stop.

Palo Alto, CA |

My employer has let me work through lunches for over a year and leave 30 minutes early. Recently, she has said that she is afraid the company will get into some sort of trouble for letting me do this. I have no problem taking a lunch if she insists; however, I am curious as to what sort of precedent was made by her signing my timecards for over a year. If she were to try to fire me saying we didn't have an agreement that I could work through lunch, would my timecards that she signed show that we did have an agreement? Incidentally, I never worked through lunch prior to the Brinker decision by the California Supreme Court. The reason that i am worried about losing my job is that my boss has recently retained a legal firm that specializes in employment law.

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Attorney answers 3


You are an at-will employee, most likely, and can be let go for any reason other than a discriminatory or retaliatory reason that violates public policy. The fact that your employer hired a good law firm to navigate complex employment laws should not give you much fright.

Your employer should not knowingly make agreements that allow one to work through lunch and leave early, because California law does not permit that. Part of the reason for the lunch is to refresh you, make you more productive, and less prone to mistakes and injuries. So, you should follow the new lunch rules.

Employment law firms that counsel employers (myself included) generally don't counsel employers to fire valuable employees for following the employer's own rules. The focus, rather, is on creating a culture of compliance and managing risk of past employer violations.

You may wish to consult with an employment lawyer in advance, to help you plan for the "what if" questions. You also have a claim for meal period violations.

David Mallen

David A. Mallen offers answers on Avvo for general information only. This offer of free, general answers is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. If you need specific advice regarding your legal question, you should consult an attorney confidentially. Many experienced California labor and employment attorneys, including David A. Mallen offer no-risk legal consultations to employers and employees at no charge. David A. Mallen is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, as well as the California Labor Commissioner and the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. Failure to take legal action within the time periods prescribed by law could result in the loss of important legal rights and remedies.


Mr. Mallen's advice is correct. It is wise for all employers to have an employment law attorney on retainer to assist them through a maze of very complicated state and federal labor laws. That fact, alone, should not cause you concern. However, if you sense there has been a problem building at your job, you should seek the advice of an employment law attorney, so you are on an even playing field. One of the things which may be looked at is whether this employer does owe you wages or penalties for violating your meal break requirement.

They say you get what you pay for, and this response is free, so take it for what it is worth. This is my opinion based on very limited information. My opinion should not be taken as legal advice. For true advice, we would require a confidential consultation where I would ask you questions and get your complete story. This is a public forum, so remember, nothing here is confidential. Nor am I your attorney. I do not know who you are and you have not hired me to provide any legal service. To do so would require us to meet and sign written retainer agreement. My responses are intended for general information only.


Your question is very open ended with very little information. Do you have a written contact with your employer? Are there written employment rules and policies? Is there a union? How long have you been there? Are you being treated differently than other employees? Were you promised any duration or length of employment by your employer? If none of the above apply and you are straight up have an employee at will situation your employer does not need a reason to fire you but can terminate you at will. If one or more of the above categories affects you in a very clear and precise analysis of your complete factual employment history would have to be conducted by a legal counsel.

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