On September 30, 2010, Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill that creates new exemptions to the meal period requirements of California Labor Code Section 512 for unionized workers in certain industries. Once the bill becomes law on January 1, 2011, employees are exempt from the meal period provisions of Labor Code Section 512(a)-(b)1 if all of the following criteria are met:  

  • The employee is covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement;  
  • The valid collective bargaining agreement expressly provides for the wages, hours of work, and working conditions of employees, and expressly provides for meal periods for those employees, final and binding arbitration of disputes concerning application of its meal period provisions, premium wages for all overtime hours worked, and a regular hourly rate of pay of not less than 30 percent more than the state minimum wage rate; and  
  • The employee is employed “in a construction occupation,” “as a commercial driver,” “in the security services industry as a security officer,” or “by an electrical corporation, a gas corporation, or a local publicly owned electric utility.”  

The occupations exempted from the meal period requirements are further defined in the law. For example, a “commercial driver” is defined as an employee who operates a “motor vehicle of a type required to be registered under this code used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit or designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property” or “any vehicle or combination of vehicles that requires a class A or class B license, or a class C license with an endorsement…”  

Employers with qualifying, unionized workers should examine their collective bargaining agreements. If the collective bargaining agreements do not already meet the foregoing criteria, employers should consider negotiating these provisions into the collective bargaining agreement or in a side agreement to address the criteria immediately or at the next available bargaining opportunity.

For employers with qualifying, unionized workers and collective bargaining agreements that meet the foregoing criteria, once this law takes effect on January 1, 2011, it will cut off meal period liability for the exempted employees going forward.