California Labor &
Employment Law Blog
No Meal Break Violation Where Employees Are Incentivized to Stay Onsite Through Offer of Discounted Meal
Jul 18, 2018

No Meal Break Violation Where Employees Are Incentivized to Stay Onsite Through Offer of Discounted Meal

Topics: Court Decisions, Wage & Hour Issues

Today, the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion in Rodriguez v. Taco Bell Corp., upholding the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Taco Bell on class claims for alleged meal break violations.  In this case, Taco Bell authorized and permitted employees to take meal breaks during which they were relieved of duty and free to leave the premises.  However, Taco Bell offered employees the option of purchasing a discounted meal at Taco Bell, in which case they had to remain on site to eat it (in order to prevent theft/abuse associated with employees bringing discounted food to third parties outside the restaurant).  Because no good deed ever goes unpunished in California, a class action lawsuit was filed against Taco Bell alleging that their practices violated California law by denying employees lawful meal breaks. 

Thankfully, the courts seem to have actually got this one right, finding the plaintiffs’ claim to be without merit and undeserving of a trial.  The plaintiffs had argued that time spent eating discounted meals in the restaurant had to be compensated as work time because they purportedly were subject to Taco Bell’s “control” during this time by virtue of not being allowed to leave the premises.  The Ninth Circuit flatly rejected this argument, appropriately reasoning that the choice to purchase a discounted meal was purely voluntary (and optional) on the part of employees.  If they didn’t wish to remain on the premises for a meal break, they simply could have chosen not to purchase a discounted meal, in which case they would have been free to leave the premises for their meal break. 

This seems like a no-brainer, right?  If only Taco Bell could recover all of its fees incurred to defend this shakedown claim.

About CDF

For over 25 years, CDF has distinguished itself as one of the top employment, labor and immigration firms in California, representing employers in single-plaintiff and class action lawsuits and advising employers on related legal compliance and risk avoidance. We cover the state, with five locations from Sacramento to San Diego.

> visit primary site

About the Editor in Chief

Sacramento Office Managing Partner and Chair of CDF’s Traditional Labor Law Practice Group. Mark has been practicing labor and employment law in California for thirty years. His practice has a special emphasis on the representation of California employers in union-management relations and handling federal and state court litigation and administrative matters triggered by all types of employment-related disputes. He is also adept at providing creative and practical legal advice to help minimize the risks inherent in employing workers in California. He recently named “Sacramento Lawyer of the Year” in Employment Law-Management for 2021 by Best Lawyers®.
> Full Bio   > Email   Call 916.361.0991

CDF Labor Law LLP © 2022

Editorial Board About CDF What We Do Contact Us Attorney Advertising Disclaimer Privacy Policy Cookie Policy