The Washington State Supreme Court just issued a new decision on the topic of meal breaks. You can download the opinion at the link below. The case centered on this Washington regulation that requires employers to allow employees to take meal breaks:
WAC 296-126-092 states in relevant part: "( 1) Employees shall be allowed a meal period of at least thirty minutes which commences no less than two hours nor more than five hours from the beginning of the shift. Meal periods shall be on the employer's time when the employee is required by the employer to remain on duty on the premises or at a prescribed work site in the interest of the employer."
The Washington Supreme Court issued this directive for cases that involve claims of failure to allow meal breaks: "An employee asserting a meal break violation under WAC 296-126-092 can establish his or her prima facie case by providing evidence that he or she did not receive a timely meal break. The burden then shifts to the employer to rebut this by showing that in fact no violation occurred or that a valid waiver exists." The Court reasoned that "this should not be an onerous burden on the employer, who is already keeping track of the employee's time for payroll purposes."
I'm not sure I agree that it is going to be easy for employers to prove waiver simply because it keeps track of hours worked. Under Washington law, waiver is the intentional and voluntary relinquishment of a known right; waiver can result from an express agreement or be inferred from circumstances indicating an intent to waive. To constitute implied waiver, there must exist unequivocal acts or conduct evidencing an intent to waive; waiver will not be inferred from doubtful or ambiguous factors. This is a pretty high standard, and it is not that easy to meet this burden.
Brady v. AutoZone Download
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