Taco Bell Bans Some Employees From Leaving During Lunch Breaks
California's lunch break laws have been in the news a lot this month. First, Facebook made headlines when it was revealed that the company's new Mountain View offices wouldn't offer free lunches (a common perk in the tech industry)—the city passed an ordinance banning the practice a few years before Facebook bought the building, in an attempt to encourage tenants to support local restaurants and food merchants. And now, on the other end of the lunch law spectrum, Taco Bell is getting attention for its (recently court-upheld) decision to prevent CA-area employees from leaving the premises for meals, as Inc. reports.
Taco Bell's lunchtime restrictions only apply under certain circumstances. Basically, if an employee brings their own food to work, or buys Taco Bell food at full-price, they're free to leave and eat it wherever. But, if they purchase Taco Bell items for lunch using their employee discount, they're required to stay in the building.
The company originally instated the policy to ensure that workers didn't abuse their employee discounts by buying marked-down Chalupas and Nacho Fries to feed friends and family members. But in a recent class-action lawsuit, employees argued that if they were in Taco Bell they were entitled to wages, since they were still technically on-call.
However, earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Taco Bell, stating, "The panel held that California law was not violated because Taco Bell relieved their employees of all duties during the meal break period and exercised no control over their activities, where employees were free to use the thirty minutes in any way they wished, subject only to the restriction that if they purchased a discounted meal, they had to eat in the restaurant."
This isn't the first time Taco Bell has been in court for lunch-related reasons. Back in 2016, a California jury determined that Taco Bell workers in the state were owed nearly $500,000, after finding the chain had not followed CA law dictating the terms of payment for meal breaks.