Assembly Bill 569 went into effect on January 1, 2011. This statute creates a limited revision to the law requiring employers to provide workers with off-duty meal breaks. This message is to alert you to PG&E’s apparent intention regarding this legislation, and to Local 1245’s readiness to respond, if necessary, to ensure that PG&E complies with its legal obligations.
Pre-2011 law regarding meal breaks: California law requires that in most circumstances hourly employees must be provided a one-half hour unpaid off-duty meal break for any shift more than 5 hours long. Generally, an employee who is not provided this off-duty meal period is entitled to an extra hour of pay for a missed meal period. Because of this law, PG&E has been paying this extra hour of missed-meal-period pay to numerous shift and service employees who are not provided an off-duty meal period.
AB 569’s revision to this law: AB 569 creates a limited exception to this law. It says that certain types of employers – including public utilities like PG&E – no longer have to pay employees an extra hour of missed-meal-period pay if their employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement which “expressly provides for meal periods.”
AB 569’s applicability to PG&E employees: Local 1245’s collective bargaining agreement with PG&E requires certain shift and service employees to work their entire shift without an off-duty meal period, but does allow them to eat while they are on duty. This does not appear to be the type of contract term which would exempt PG&E, under AB 569, from its obligation to pay such employees an extra hour of pay for a missed meal period.
PG&E’s intention regarding AB 569: PG&E has not made its intentions perfectly clear on this issue, but it has issued an FAQ suggesting that, because of AB 569, it may stop paying the missed-meal-period payments that it has been paying. This FAQ says PG&E will implement changes in meal period payments in April, 2011.
Local 1245’s position: Our attorneys have made a preliminary determination that in their opinion AB 569’s exemption from paying an extra hour of pay for a missed meal period does not apply to all PG&E employees, and may not apply to any. When PG&E finalizes and implements its plan, Local 1245 will analyze PG&E’s actions and respond appropriately as the law provides, and will also advise members about their options regarding how they may respond, as individuals.