CHA News Article

Governor Signs Bill Allowing Meal Period Waivers to Continue for Hospital Employees

Today, Gov. Brown signed SB 327 (Hernandez, D-Azusa) – the bill sponsored by United Nurses Associations of California (UNAC), cosponsored by CHA, and supported by SEIU and SEIU-UHW – to reject the appellate court decision in Gerard v. Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center. That decision, currently under review by the California Supreme Court, held that: 1) wage order 5 section 11D, allowing employees in the health care industry to waive one of their two meal periods regardless of shift length, was invalid; and 2) the decision was retroactive, so hospitals could be liable for up to four years in premium pay for ”missed” meal periods.

The bill amends the labor code to confirm that health care employees can waive one of their two meal periods, even when their shift exceeds 12 hours. As urgency legislation, it goes into effect immediately.

This legislation confirms that such waivers are valid prospectively and, while intended to eliminate the potential for retroactive liability, that decision is ultimately for the California Supreme Court. CHA is hopeful, however, that the language and legislative history of SB 327 will persuade the Supreme Court that the Industrial Welfare Commission had authority to adopt the health care meal period rules in 2000.

This success was a true team effort. CHA appreciates the letters of support submitted by member hospitals on very short notice. Special thanks to Richard Simmons of Sheppard Mullin and Jeff Berman of Seyfarth Shaw, who contributed significant amounts of time to this effort on a pro bono basis.