Employment Law – Attorney fees not recoverable in California rest break and meal break cases

The California Supreme Court continued the winning streak for employers with its decision in the case of Kirby v. Immoos Fire Protection that attorney fees are not recoverable for prevailing parties in meal break and rest break cases.

Before the Kirby case, it was generally assumed the winning side in meal break and rest break cases was entitled to recover attorney fees.  Therefore, there was a huge incentive for employers to settle break cases, even if the case had questionable merit, because of the possibility the employer could be liable for attorney fees if the case went to trial (in that situation, the fees could easily be $25,000 to $50,000 or much more if the case was a class action).

The Kirby ruling means that for break cases to be feasible, the amount of missed breaks should be significant and there should be multiple employees who have missed breaks.  Even so, the value of these cases will be diminished unless other legal theories are alleged that do provide for the recovery of attorney fees (such as discrimination, harassment, or PAGA claims).

For more information on meal and rest breaks, see these answers to frequently asked questions on breaks.

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