Taco Bell Wins Big on Lunch Break Ruling. Why You Should Care.

by Evil HR Lady on July 24, 2018

Taco Bell’s old slogan “Run for the border” seemed the opposite of what it required it’s employees to do–stay on the premises during lunch breaks if they bought discounted food. Employees complained, saying if they were to stay at the restaurant, they were entitled to pay because they weren’t actually relieved of duties.

Taco Ball countered that, indeed, employees were free to leave the restaurant during their breaks–they only had to stay and consume any discounted food they purchased in the restaurant. Taco Bell wanted to ensure they weren’t using their employee discount to feed friends or family members. If employees purchased food at full price, or didn’t buy food, they were welcome to leave.

The 9th circuit court agreed with Taco Bell. They wrote:

to keep reading, click here: Taco Bell Wins Big on Lunch Break Ruling. Why You Should Care.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria Rose July 24, 2018 at 3:47 pm

All fast food restaurants allow employees to purchase food at the restaurant at a discounted price and most of the time whatever has been purchased is eaten on premises as most employees don’t leave premises for a lunch or break. I have a strong feeling this lawsuit came about because someone abused the discount purchasing policy and didn’t like being written up for it and had access to a lawyer who looks for something like this.( a class action suit) Sorry I just watched some episodes of Better Call Saul.
All I am trying to point out here is that an employer tried to give a benefit to its employees (a discount on purchases) and an abuse occurred which resulted in this lawsuit which brought up the question of what classifies as a break ( on clock) or lunch ( off clock). All of this is described by labor laws depending on geographic location. Most people think some assumed workers rights are law all over. Some workers rights are part of a union contract but aren’t set in law as previously mentioned many times the only right a worker has is the right to work which also gives the employer the right to fire at will.

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Dorothy July 24, 2018 at 9:26 pm

I have to disagree. In the past restaurants allowed employees to eat free. Then we went through the McDonalds “you must pay for food whether you eat it or not” era.

If I’m not allowed to leave, I’m not on a lunch break. This was a bad decision. Taco Bell could simply limit the amount of discounted food an employee can buy to a certain number of items or a certain dollar amount.

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Evil HR Lady July 24, 2018 at 10:31 pm

They are free to leave, though. Just not with half priced food. If they pay full price or buy no food, they can take it with them. If they buy it and gulp it down, they can leave the for the rest of their break.

When I worked at Burger King, ca 1989-1991, we got half priced meals on our breaks.

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Kobayashi July 27, 2018 at 7:11 pm

Yep, I agree with Evil HR Lady. The workers were completely free to leave. They could bring their own lunch, get lunch somewhere else, or buy discounted food and scarf it down at the restaurant, then leave. This is a case of no good deed goes unpunished. Taco Bell does not have to offer discounted food. No employer does. To top it off, the lawyer for the employees was trying to get the value of the discounted meal added to wages for overtime purposes. Double whammy. It cost Taco Bell a pretty penny to fight this — for something they didn’t even have to do. And THIS is the reason employers are getting stingier. No good deed goes unpunished, so why do anything at all if you don’t have to. It’ll just lead to trouble. That’s the mentality that plaintiff’s attorneys and ridiculously complex labor laws are causing.

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Clover July 24, 2018 at 11:28 pm

This seems like kind of a dumb hill to die on for Taco Bell. If an employee wants to leave to run errands, go home and let their dog outside, take a walk in the park, or whatever, why not let them take their discounted Super Duper Crunch Wrap or Spicy Hot Chalupa or whatever for the road? (I don’t eat much Taco Bell, so apologies if I’m misnaming their offerings.)

If the problem is employees leveraging their discount to feed the whole family, why not place a reasonable dollar limit in on-the-clock purchases instead?

Policies like this can’t possibly save businesses enough money to offset the hit that employee morale takes. And loss of morale leads to turnover, gossip, slacking, insubordination, etc. At least this has been my observation during my time in retail.

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BethRA July 25, 2018 at 4:56 pm

This. I worked at a chinese take-out place as a teenager. We were given a steep discount on the food we purchased, and I absolutely used it to buy and take home orders large enough to share with my mom and brother. Never once did the boss object. In fact, every now and then Hoy would add a little container of a dish he knew my mom loved.

I worked my butt off for that man all through high school and Summers when I was in college.

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Kobayashi July 27, 2018 at 7:16 pm

Very nice of your boss, but a restaurant is not obligated to feed employees, their entire families, and all their friends at a steep discount. If you have 10 employees working on a shift, each with an average of, say, three family members and five friends, that’s easily 80 meals per shift… and it not only costs the business money in the discount, but it costs the business additional labor expenses to make those 80 meals.

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grannybunny July 25, 2018 at 5:58 pm

Agreed.

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GreenDoor July 25, 2018 at 10:43 pm

I agree! Just limit how many items/dollar amount the employee can purchase during a shift. Or better yet, say “so what” to them giving discounted food to friends. It’s Taco Bell. Even at full price you can get a ten-course meal there for, like, $5. We’re not talking about a pricey gourmet French restaurant here…What a crazy battle to fight…

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Rabadniertokentorer Marashiona July 25, 2018 at 5:57 pm

The only thing Taco’s Bell win big on is making me ill. So much nasty in exquisite room of bodily functions.

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