UPS, Inc v Superior Court – the first California reported appellate decision to address the issue – confirmed that California employers who fail to provide meal and rest periods to their non-exempt employees in the same workday are liable for two hours of pay rather than one.
UPS involved 32 coordinated actions by employees seeking compensation for an alleged failure by UPS to provide legally required meal and rest periods. During the litigation, UPS requested that the court determine the amount of damages available under California Labor Code § 226.7, which penalizes employers who fail to provide a meal or rest period for "one additional hour of pay at the employee's regular rate of compensation for each work day that the meal or rest period is not provided." UPS argued that this section authorized only one premium payment per day, regardless of the number of missed meal or rest periods during that day. The plaintiffs contended that two premium payments were authorized per day, one for a missed meal period and one for any missed rest periods.
While the appellate court acknowledged that the statute was susceptible to either interpretation, after a detailed review of the statute, applicable IWC wage orders and the legislative history of the statute, the court determined that the more reasonable view was that the statute permitted up to two premium payments per work day. The court noted that allowing only one premium payment would encourage employers to make an employee who missed a rest period to also miss a meal period without further penalty.
The UPS decision effectively doubles the penalty for employers who fail to make available meal and rest periods to employees as required by California law.