New Year, New Laws for California Employers – Deposition Limits, San Francisco Ordinances and Meal Periods
In the final part of our series, “New Year, New Laws for California Employers,” we take a look at new deposition limits, San Francisco ordinances and meal periods. Prepared by Mark Terman, partner in the Los Angeles office, this series looks at some of the significant new regulations becoming law in 2013 affecting private employers doing business in California.
AB 1875 limits a deposition of any person to seven hours of total testimony, similar to the requirement in federal courts. Excepted from this limitation are depositions in employment and complex cases, and of expert witnesses.
San Francisco City Ordinances
For an employer who directly or indirectly employs or exercises control over an employee’s wages, hours and working conditions in the city of San Francisco, Minimum Wage, Health Care Security (HCS) and Paid Sick Leave (PSL) Ordinances benefit those employees (http://sfgsa.org/index.aspx?page=430).
For 2013, hourly minimum wage for employees in San Francisco increases to $10.55 from $10.22, while the statewide minimum wage outside San Francisco remains at $8. The required 2013 “spend per employee,” under the HCS Ordinance for employers with 100 or more employees increases to $2.33 from $2.20 per hour. For employers of 20-99 employees, spend increases to $1.55 from $1.46. Exempt from the HCS Ordinance are employers with 19 or fewer employees, managers and supervisors salaried at $86,593 or more and nonprofit employers of less than 50 employees. So far, there is no change in the PSL Ordinance.
Of the many court decisions this year affecting employers, perhaps none impact as many employers as the California Supreme Court’s meal period directive in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court.
Before Brinker, California employers were relegated to policing and disciplining employees to ensure they took at least one, 30-minute nonworking meal periods and, if employers did not, they stood to risk class-action and single-plaintiff litigation over regular wages, overtime wages, wage premium (an extra hour of pay for each meal period lost), interest and attorneys’ fees.
By contrast, Brinker ruled that an employer’s obligation is to relieve its employees of all duty, with employees then at liberty to use the meal period for whatever purpose, but the employer need not ensure that no work is done during the meal period. Likewise, an employee may not capitalize on premium pay by intentionally working through provided meal periods, and an employer may not “impede or discourage” a full, uninterrupted meal period. Finally, the court held that an employer must provide a reasonable opportunity to take meal periods of at least 30 uninterrupted minutes, within the proper time frame, and relieve employees of all duties.
While this case is welcome news, employee claims may still surface. For example, some employees may contend that they were impeded or discouraged from taking lunch or leaving their work area, thus triggering premium pay. Some employees may habitually decline to take a meal period to try to consume “regular rate” working time midday and assure that some overtime is worked, forcing the employer to pay overtime rates for those hours. Consequently, some employers may still prefer to require by their own policies that meal periods are actually taken, rather than made available.
Links to the other posts from this series are below.