In a decision that California employers have been waiting for, a California Court of Appeals today ruled "...while employers cannot impede, discourage or dissuade employees from taking meal periods, they need only provide them and not ensure they are taken."
In Brinker v. Superior Court, the Court analyzed what California Labor Code § 512 means when it requires an employer to "provide" meal periods to its non-exempt employees. (California Labor Code § 512 requires that an employer "provide" an employee with a meal period if the employee works five (5) hours or more.)
For years, the California DLSE and courts have interpreted the term "provide" to mean employers must require employees to take their mandatory meal periods or be liable to the employee for one extra hour of pay.
It would be a mistake to immediately change any policies you have in place regarding meal breaks; the decision will almost certainly be appealed to higher courts.