The California Supreme Court has declined to review Bluford v. Safeway Stores, Inc. In Bluford, a class-action lawsuit was brought on behalf of unionized truck drivers who worked throughout Northern California. Under the compensation plan agreed to at the bargaining table, drivers’ wages were based on a mileage rate for miles driven and different rates for other tasks, but there was no means for recording rest breaks. Employees were not paid a separate rate for paid rest breaks, and there was no indication on the employees’ wage statements that time spent on rest breaks would be paid. The Court of Appeal held that even though Safeway had a policy to provide paid rest periods, under a piece-rate system, rest periods must be separately compensated. Since Safeway failed to compensate employees separately for rest periods, the employer’s policy amounted to averaging hourly compensation and thus did not comply with California minimum wage law.
Safeway sought review of the Court of Appeal’s decision, and Western Growers and other ag and non-ag associations, sent letters in support of Safeway’s petition. Unfortunately, the state’s high court denied review and the published section of the opinion dealing with compensating rest breaks is now the law of the land. Buford, combined with the recent decision in Gonzalez v. Downtown LA Motors, makes clear that non-productive time and paid break periods must be separately paid to piece rate employees.
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