Viewing blog posts written by Gino DiCaro

Dear Abby: My boss says I can leave work but California won't let me

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on June 4, 2008

Driving home at 5:00 pm yesterday gave me pause.  For those of you working in the Sacramento area during the month-long Interstate 5 closure, here's a thought: skip your lunch hour, eat a baloney sandwich at your desk, then take off early to navigate the roundabout maze of sidestreets with a lot less traffic.  You'll get your work done quicker, your family time will increase and your gas consumption might even decrease a little.   Just one of the myriad of situations where alternative work schedules could benefit California's workforce and economy.   I can do it but many "non-exempt" hourly workers in California can't.  Even with a mutual agreement between employers and employees, California law prohibits any flexibility in meal and rest period provisions.  Or at least it's so loosely written that it opens the doors to massive class-action lawsuits after the slightest meal period adjustment.

Even Labor unions can't use collective bargaining to negotiate alternative meal schedules under the existing Statute.  If you are a non-exempt employee you are stuck in a centuries-old work schedule environment.  If you are an employer, allowing any efficiencies that benefit the worker's schedule opens your company to litigation, forcing you to police your own workforce.

Some have called it "Rest when it's best" policy.  Some call it "Meal and Rest flexibility".  Some call it "Comprehensive reform for meal periods rules".  Some call it "Catching up with our 21st Century work environments".  Let's just call it FAIR.  Fair to both worker and employer ... and absolutely necessary in today's intensely competitive, and information technology driven, workplace.

Industries and employees are demanding a fix to this stringent regulation and there was a seminal acknowledgement of the problem two months ago in the State Senate Labor Committee, but the negotiations quickly fell apart.  It's time for California to provide the flexibility our workers need.   Help.

Original industry support letter for SB 1539

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Employers and Employees need "Rest when it's Best"

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on April 9, 2008

Today in California's Senate Labor Committee, the beginnings of a long sought after fix (SB 1539 by Ron Calderon) to the State's very unclear meal and break period laws made an important first step -- it passed it's first Committee.  The legislation was unfortunately stripped down but still moved forward as an intent bill and, most importantly, the Committee recognized the need for change in its comments and vote.

The law in question (Labor code section 512) states that a non-exempt employee can't work more than 5 hours without being provided a thirty-minute meal period.  Employers and employees need flexibility and clarity -- the type of freedom not afforded in a law as ambiguous and often litigated as this one.  

Manufacturers and their employees use many different types of schedules to accommodate different processes.  The original law was not intended to prohibit flexible and symbiotic work schedules from occurring, but it was written in such a way that unintentionally created a wide-open venue for class-action lawsuits amidst very agreeable employer / employee relationships.

At its very worst, the law even created situations where a nurse could be forced to take a rest period during a medical procedure if that nurse had not yet taken a break.  Fear of costly lawsuits forces employers (including health facilities) to require these 30-minute reprieves regardless of the employee's immediate disposition or situation.

Because the law is so nebulous, meal period class-action lawsuits have become a popular and easy way to sue California employers.  SB 1539 and "Rest when it's Best" clarification has lots of hurdles and challenges but the mere recognition that change is needed is a very promising first step.  

Next time you're at dinner and your waiter says he's being forced to take his break right in the middle of "go time", take a breath and a bite of your riceless, orange flavored chicken and hope that the law gets fixed before it becomes an even larger reason not to grow a manufacturing facility or employee base in California ... or worse, before you get to the hospital and need all willing hands on deck.

View SB 1539 broad support letter.

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