Taco Bell Beats Claim That On-Site Meals Do Not Count as Breaks
In a recent decision, the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion in Rodriguez v. Taco Bell Corp., upholding the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Taco Bell Corp. The opinion maintained that the company did not violate a California law mandating meal breaks when it offered employees a discount on food only if they ate on site.
In this case, Taco Bell permitted employees to take meal breaks during which they were relieved of duty and free to leave the premises. However, Taco Bell offered employees the option of purchasing a discounted meal but required the employee to remain on site to eat it. Taco Bell representative expressed that the requirement was an attempt to prevent theft/abuse associated with employees bringing discounted food to third parties outside the restaurant. A class action lawsuit was filed against Taco Bell alleging that their practices violated California law by denying employees lawful meal breaks.
The courts found the plaintiffs’ claim to be without merit and undeserving of a trial. The plaintiffs had argued that time spent eating discounted meals in the restaurant had to be compensated as work time because they were allegedly subject to Taco Bell’s “control” during this time of not being allowed to leave the premises. The Ninth Circuit flatly rejected this argument since the choice to purchase a discounted meal was purely voluntary and optional on the part of employees. The court reasoned that any employee not wishing to remain on the premises for a meal break could simply have chosen not to purchase a discounted meal at Taco Bell, and would then have been free to leave the premises for their meal break.
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