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Taco Bell Must Pay Workers $500,000 for Unpaid Lunch Breaks

The class action lawsuit involved nearly 134,000 employees

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Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

A court case against Taco Bell that dragged on for almost a decade is finally over: A California jury has determined that Taco Bell workers in California are owed nearly $500,000 after finding the chain had underpaid the employees for their meal breaks, reports Nation's Restaurant News.

The class action lawsuit, which began way back in in 2007 and was led by employees Lisa Hardiman and Sandrika Medlock, was consolidated with other similar cases in 2009. The February 22 decision handed down by a U.S. district court in Eastern California determined Taco Bell had not followed California law dictating the terms of payment for meal breaks and 10-minute breaks.

Employees were only paid for 30 minutes instead of the requisite one hour pay if they skipped their 30-minute meal breaks between 2003 and 2007, the decision found. Additionally, Taco Bell didn't provide meal breaks to employees at the fifth hour of working six-hour or longer shifts, and gave employees one 10-minute break instead of the two required by law.

Other issues the suit brought up included "unpaid overtime, unpaid minimum wages, unreimbursed business expenses, vested accrued vacation wages and other claims," according to LawyersandSettlements.com, but the jury did not find sufficient evidence in favor of the class of workers in the suit to levy any fines on Taco Bell in these areas.

Of course, half a million dollars is a drop in the bucket for a fast food giant that reported more than $8 billion in U.S. sales in 2014. But perhaps going forward Taco Bell will be a bit more careful about how it pays its workers; for those who earn minimum wage or just above, being shorted a half-hour of pay or an additional 10 minute break can have a significant impact. The Taco Bell suit is just the latest instance of an increasing number of lawsuits forcing restaurants to cough up back pay for labor violations like forcing workers to work off-the-clock and not paying overtime.

Eater has reached out to Taco Bell for comment. Scope out the original complaint against the company from 2007, below:

Taco Bell Court Complaint by Eater