California Court of Appeals Reverses Original Decision Regarding Meal Period Waivers for Healthcare
On October 5, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill confirming that hospital employees and other employees in the healthcare industry can continue to waive one of their two meal periods.
California Court of Appeals Reverses Decision TwiceHealthcare workers that work 12 or more hours in a given day are entitled to two meals, but they have an option to waive one of those meals if they so choose. Healthcare workers brought a case against their hospital, claiming that the hospital's policy of allowing healthcare workers to waive a meal was unlawful. The case, Gerard v. Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center, was initially filed in 2008, and since Gov. Jerry Brown's 2015 ruling, has since been back to court twice. It is just now, as of March 2017, coming to a close. After Gov. Jerry Brown handed down his initial determination, the case was then brought before the Court of Appeals. The three-member panel reversed Brown's decision, claiming that, "the provision in Wage Order 5 allowing waivers even when employees work over 12 hours was invalid."
What This Decision Means for Hospitals and Healthcare WorkersThough the case is not entirely settled (though it looks like it is getting close to it), if the panel of judges sticks with their final decision, it would mean that hospital workers would be allowed to work their 12-hour shift with the flexibility to choose whether they wanted to eat one meal or two during that shift. Taking just one meal break would reduce their workday from 13 hours to 12 1/2 , a significant amount of time for someone who is on their feet the greater portion of the day.
Additionally, this decision reduces a hospital's risk for liability for meal period violations. If an employee did miss a single meal period during a 12-hour shift, the hospital could just refer to the California Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) to show that the worker voluntarily waived his or her rights to that meal.
All-in-all, the Court of Appeal's decision seems like the best one for everyone involved, but we will see if it sticks.