Last April, the California Supreme Court resolved long-standing confusion regarding the definition of the word “provide” in Labor Code §512, which requires employers to provide meal breaks to employees who work for more than five hours. In the landmark Brinker decision, the Court clarified that an employer must relieve its employees of all duties during a meal period. The decision was haled as a victory for employers because the Court did not require employers to police meal breaks, but was also looked at as a boon to employees, because employers must go beyond merely maintaining a policy permitting meal breaks.
Since Brinker, several California appellate court cases have interpreted the decision. Recently, however, the Supreme Court depublished three of these decisions. The Court’s depublication of the decisions indicates that the Court wants lower courts to use Brinker as precedent, rather than these appellate court decisions. The Court’s depublication strongly signals that these decisions improperly used an outdated definition of the word “provide,” which fails to take into account that employers must now take affirmative steps to relieve employees of all duties during breaks.