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Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court

Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court

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Published by: www.BaileyDaily.com on Apr 14, 2012
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09/01/2014

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 1
Filed 4/12/12
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA
 
BRINKER RESTAURANT )CORPORATION et al., ))Petitioners, ) S166350)v. ) Ct.App. 4/1 D049331)THE SUPERIOR COURT OF )SAN DIEGO COUNTY, ) San Diego County) Super. Ct. No. GIC834348Respondent; ))ADAM HOHNBAUM et al., ))Real Parties in Interest. )____________________________________)For the better part of a century, California law has guaranteed to employeeswage and hour protection, including meal and rest periods intended to amelioratethe consequences of long hours. For most of that time, only injunctive remedieswere available for violations of meal and rest period guarantees. In 2000,however, both the Legislature and the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC)adopted for the first time monetary remedies for the denial of meal and rest breaks.(
 Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc.
(2007) 40 Cal.4th 1094, 1105-1106.)These remedies engendered a wave of wage and hour class action litigation,including the instant suit in which the trial court granted class certification and theCourt of Appeal then issued writ relief and ordered three subclasses decertified.
 
 2We granted review to consider issues of significance to class actionsgenerally and to meal and rest break class actions in particular. We conclude,contrary to the Court of Appeal, that trial courts are not obligated as a matter of 
law to resolve threshold disputes over the elements of a plaintiff‟s claims, unless a
particular determination is necessarily dispositive of the certification question.Because the parties have so requested, however, we nevertheless address severalsuch threshold disputes here. On the most contentious of these, the nature of an
employer‟s duty to provide meal periods, we conclude an
employer
‟s obligation is
to relieve its employee of all duty, with the employee thereafter at liberty to usethe meal period for whatever purpose he or she desires, but the employer need notensure that no work is done.On the ultimate question of class certification, we review the trial c
ourt‟s
ruling for abuse of discretion. In light of the substantial evidence submitted by
 plaintiffs of defendants‟ uniform polic
y, we conclude the trial court properlycertified a rest break subclass. On the question of meal break subclasscertification, we remand to the trial court for reconsideration. With respect to thethird contested subclass, covering allegations that employees were required to
work “off 
-the-
clock,” no evidence of common policies or means of proof was
supplied, and the trial court therefore erred in certifying a subclass. Accordingly,because the Court of Appeal rejected certification of all three subclasses, we willaffirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.
F
ACTUAL AND
P
ROCEDURAL
B
ACKGROUND
 Defendants Brinker Restaurant Corporation, Brinker International, Inc., andBrinker International Payroll Company, L.P. (collectively Brinker), own andoperate restaurants throughout California, including
Chili‟s Grill
& Bar and
Maggiano‟s Little Italy
. Brinker previously has owned and operated additionalchains in California, including
Romano‟s Macaroni Grill,
Corner Bakery Cafe,
 
 3
Cozymel‟s Mexican Grill, and On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina.
Nameplaintiffs Adam Hohnbaum, Illya Haase, Romeo Osorio, Amanda June Rader, andSantana Alvarado (collectively Hohnbaum) are or were hourly nonexempt
employees at one or more of Brinker‟s restaurants.
 State law obligates employers to afford their nonexempt employees mealperiods and rest periods during the workday. (See Lab. Code, §§ 226.7, 512; IWCwage order No. 5-2001 (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11050); hereafter Wage OrderNo. 5.)
1
Labor Code section 226.7, subdivision (a)
2
prohibits an employer from
requiring an employee “
to work during any meal or rest period mandated by an
applicable order of the Industrial Welfare Commission.” In turn, Wage Order 
No. 5, subdivision 12 prescribes rest periods, while subdivision 11, as well assection 512 of the Labor Code, prescribes meal periods. Employers who violatethese requirements must pay premium wages. (§ 226.7, subd. (b); Wage OrderNo. 5, subds. 11(B), 12(B); see
 Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc.
,
supra
,40 Cal.4th at p. 1114.)In 2002, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) launched aninvestigation into whether Brinker was complying with its obligations to providerest and meal breaks, maintain proper records, and pay premium wages in theevent required breaks were not provided. The DLSE filed suit and eventually
settled in exchange for Brinker‟s pa
yment of $10 million to redress injuries
1
The IWC issues wage orders on an industry-by-industry basis. (
 Martinez v.Combs
(2010) 49 Cal.4th 35, 57.) Wage Order No. 5 governs restaurantemployees, inter alia, while other wage orders impose similar meal and rest periodrequirements for all other nonexempt employees in California. (See generally Cal.Code Regs., tit. 8, §§ 11010-11170.)
2
All further statutory references are to the Labor Code unless otherwisespecified.

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