It sounds harmless enough--under California law, hourly employers must provide employees a meal break after five hours of work. But like most things the government sticks its fingers into, it gets screwed up and ultimately works against its original purpose.
Liberals and labor groups liked this particular law because it prevents businesses from overworking employees. If only progressives could use some common sense when exercising their good intentions. Or maybe the law's flaws are only evident to people who have worked in the private sector for more than 10 minutes.
The main problem with the law is what happens when an employee wants to work through lunch. The employee might want to make a little extra money or finish a project before a deadline. The law was written too vaguely--it said an employer must provide a lunch. But does that mean they have to ensure a lunch is taken, or merely offer one even if it is not accepted.
Given the uncertainty, the safe approach for the employer was to for the employee to take the lunch or risk penalization.
The perverse effect of the law, which was meant to help the employee, is to make a law-abiding employer punish a hard-working employee.
Great job, Democrats.
They also screwed up other labor laws, such as requiring employers to pay overtime if an employee works more than eight hours in a day. Many employers responded by not allowing any workers to work overtime. My wallet is better off if I get regular wages for 9 hours than have the 9th hour be worth time-and-a-half and never be able to work more than 8.
But back to the lunch law. Employees were in limbo for nearly a decade as multiple lawsuits wound their way through the courts. Eventually, the matter fell before the Supreme Court. Thursday, they ruled, fortunately, that employers don't need to babysit employees' lunches.
Even given the law's failure, I don't expect liberals to see the light anytime soon that free markets are self regulating. If a company didn't allow employees to take lunch breaks, it would lose good people to competitors that did, causing it to rethink its position.
At any rate, that's one silly liberal regulation out of the way, thousands more to go.