Rodriguez v. Taco Bell Corp., 896 F.3d 952 (9th Cir. 2018)

In this putative class action, employees challenged a special offer that Taco Bell provided to its employees:  They could receive discounted meals and complimentary soft drinks so long as they ate the discounted meals on the premises of the restaurant.  On behalf of the putative class, Bernardina Rodriguez claimed the employees should have been paid a premium rate for the time spent on the employer’s premises eating the discounted meals because employees were under sufficient employer control during that time that they were not relieved of all duties as required by the applicable wage order.  The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order in favor of Taco Bell after concluding the employer had relieved its employees of all duties during their meal break period and had exercised no control over their activities subject only to the restriction that if they purchased a discounted meal, they had to eat it in the restaurant.  The Court also rejected the employees’ claim that the discount value of the meal should have been added to the regular rate of pay for purposes of calculating overtime.  See also Ehret v. WinCo Foods, LLC, 26 Cal. App. 5th 1 (2018) (collective bargaining agreement waived in a “clear and unmistakable” manner employees’ right to a meal break when they worked between five and six hours).