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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Meal Period Laws Do Not Apply to Public Entities, Court of Appeal Holds

In California Correctional Peace Officers’ Association v. State of California (August 18, 2010, publ. September 17, 2010), the Court of Appeal held that Labor Code Sec. 512 and 226.7, which require employers to provide employees with meal periods or pay them for their missed peal periods, and Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Order No. 17-2001, which sets wage-and-hour standards for "miscellaneous employees," do not apply to public entities.
The California Correctional Peace Officers' Association (CCPOA) contends that the State of California (the State), through the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), has violated various Labor Code provisions, as well as wage orders promulgated by the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC), by failing to provide correctional officers with meal periods and by failing to pay for the missed wage periods. According to CCPOA, the Legislature intended that the State provide its correctional officers with meal periods as required by Labor Code section 512 and IWC Wage Order No. 17, and that the State must pay for missed meal periods as required by Labor Code section 226.7. We disagree, and affirm the trial court's determination that the subject wage and hour statutes do not apply to public employees.
Slip op. at 1. The Court followed Johnson v. Arvin-Edison Water Storage Dist. (2009) 174 Cal.App.4th 729, 734-735, which rejected similar claims:
[U]nless Labor Code provisions are specifically made applicable to public employers, they only apply to employers in the private sector. Since section[ ] ... 512 do[es] not expressly apply to public entities, [it is] not applicable here. Further, applying section[ ] ... 512 to the District would infringe on its sovereign power to regulate its workforce.
Slip op. at 2, citing Johnson, 174 Cal.App.4th at p. 733.

The Court also rejected the contention that public employees are covered by Wage Order No. 17-2001, the "catch-all order, which subsumes 'Miscellaneous Employees' who are not otherwise covered specific wage orders." Slip op. at 3.
CCPOA contends that Wage Order No. 17 applies to the CDCR's employees because
peace officers were not covered or exempted by any wage order in effect in 1997. CCPOA misreads the scope of the wage orders in effect in 1997. It is well established that public employees have been historically exempt from IWC wage orders. (See, e.g., Monzon v. Schaefer Ambulance Service, Inc. (1990) 224 Cal.App.3d 16, 29, 273 Cal.Rptr. 615 [noting exclusion of public employees from general minimum wage order]; see also Kim v. Regents of University of California (2000) 80 Cal.App.4th 160, 166-167, 95 Cal.Rptr.2d 10 [holding public employee not entitled to overtime provisions in IWC Order No. 4].) Indeed, with two exceptions pertaining to agricultural occupations and household occupations (Cal.Code Regs., tit. 8, §§ 11140 & 11150), public employees were expressly exempted from the IWC wage orders in effect in 1997 [citations omitted]. By its terms, Wage Order No. 17 applies to “all employees not specifically exempted ” in the wage orders in effect in 1997. As public employees were exempt from all but two of the wage orders in effect in 1997, Wage Order No. 17 does not apply to CDCR employees.
Ibid. The opinion is available here.

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