No Attorney Fees Awards for Meal Break and Rest Period Lawsuits « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles

No Attorney Fees Awards for Meal Break and Rest Period Lawsuits

The California Supreme Court has promptly followed its game-changing Brinker decision with another important ruling, specifically limiting the rights of workers to collect attorney fees from their employers in lawsuits over allegedly missed meal breaks and rest periods.

As we reported in “Brinker: California’s Meal Break Breakthrough, Employers are No Longer the Lunch Police,” California had experienced an explosion of lawsuits over workplace meal and rest periods ever since the 2000 enactment of Labor Code 226.7.  That statute requires employers to pay an employee an extra hour of compensation for “each work day that the [required] meal or rest period is not provided.”   The recent Brinker decision clarified several aspects of that law that are favorable to employers.  See also, “Brinker Decision and Rest Periods, California Employers Get a Break.

 

Yet, Brinker did not address a worker’s ability to collect attorney fees from his/her employer in the event of a successful suit over this meal and rest period law.  Over the past decade, the prospect of collecting such fees from employers has become an additional incentive to bring such claims.

However, in Kirby v. Immoos Fire Protection, Inc. (April 30, 2012), the California Supreme Court found that neither the employee nor the employer can recover attorney’s fees on such claims over meal and rest period violations.  This clarification is another favorable development for employers who are generally required to pay the “prevailing party” attorneys fees if they lose a wage/compensation-related lawsuit, but rarely, are allowed to recoup fees if they win the case.

The Kirby decision will likely further discourage lawsuits over alleged meal and rest period violations, particularly the higher stakes class action suits.