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Araquistain v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

California Court of Appeals, First District, Fourth Division

August 27, 2014

IGNACIO ARAQUISTAIN et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
PACIFIC GAS & ELECTRIC COMPANY, Defendant and Respondent.

Alameda County Hon. No. RG12627084 Wynne Carvill judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Leonard Carder, Philip C. Monrad, Aaron Kaufmann, and Jennifer Keating for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Littler Mendelson, Robert G. Hulteng, Damon M. Ott, and Joshua D. Kienitz for Defendant and Respondent.

OPINION

Rivera, J.

With certain exceptions, California’s Labor Code[1] requires an employer to provide to an employee who works more than five hours “a meal period of not less than 30 minutes.” (§ 512, subd. (a).) This provision does not apply to an employee of an electrical or gas corporation who is covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement that, inter alia, “expressly provides for meal periods for those employees.” (§ 512, subds. (e); see id., subd. (f)(4).)

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The question before us is whether a contract that provides that employees who work shifts of eight consecutive hours “shall be permitted to eat their meals during work hours and shall not be allowed additional time therefore at Company expense” falls within the exception provided in section 512, subdivision (e)—that is, whether the contract “expressly provides for meal periods.” We answer that question in the affirmative, and accordingly affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the employer.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Ignacio Araquistain, David Page, and Douglas Girouard are hourly employees of defendant Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), which the parties agree is an “electrical corporation” and a “gas corporation” for purposes of section 512, subdivision (f)(4).[2] They are members of a union, and their employment is covered by a collective bargaining agreement (the Agreement) entered into by PG&E and the union. Each of them has worked “Consecutive Hour” shifts—that is, shifts of at least eight hours’ duration, in which all hours are compensable and the employee is not provided an unpaid meal period. The applicable contractual provision, Title 104.13 of the Agreement, states: “Notwithstanding any of the foregoing provisions, shift employees and other employees whose workday consists of eight consecutive hours shall be permitted to eat their meals during work hours and shall not be allowed additional time therefore at Company expense.”[3]

All three plaintiffs submitted declarations. Araquistain testified in his declaration that his duties consisted of responding to emergencies and hazards, responding to customer calls, performing routine service work, upgrading and maintaining electrical panels, and performing field inspections. On his consecutive hour shifts, he had to eat while on duty, and could do so only if eating would not interfere with the performance of his duties. At times, service calls were so frequent that he could not eat at all for the whole shift; other times, he had time only to buy food and eat it in the truck while filling out paperwork. Page testified that he was a power plant technician and was responsible for operating and maintaining engines and associated equipment at a generating station. He often ate his meals while monitoring computer screens, and he could not go outside the plant to eat because if he did so, he would be too far away to respond to an emergency. Girouard was a shift control technician at a power plant, whose duties included installation, maintenance, and repair of plant systems and equipment. During his consecutive hour shifts, he was always on duty, and he had to respond immediately to

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directions to perform work. He ate while on duty, and was often contacted while eating to perform work. He usually ate at his desk and listened for incoming messages directing him to perform work or ...


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