In another effort by the Schwarzenegger administration to crack down on the class action lawsuits clogging California courtrooms, a proposed "lunch-break law" seeks to establish new rules for required employee meal-and-rest breaks. The suggested revision to Title 8 of Section 13700 from California's Division of Labor Standards Enforcement would only require employers to inform workers of their right to a meal period, rather than enforce a lunch break. As the law stands, employees must break for 30-minutes following their fifth hour of work.
Making California friendlier for business is at the top of Schwarzenegger's agenda, and the current regulations provide a raft of opportunities for class action lawsuits. Under the current incarnation of Title 8, which has been in effect since 2000, employers are vulnerable to litigation if a worker refuses to take meal breaks, an employee is not informed of his or her right to a break or an employer doesn't provide a break.
"We're getting closer to sweatshop conditions with each labor right they chip away at," says Chloe Osmer, communications director for the California Labor Federation.
Labor groups also criticized the proposal because the governor initiated it under "emergency status" on a Friday evening the week before Christmas 2004, leaving only five days for public comment. In California legislators normally allow public feedback before laws are approved.