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Apple Inc. retail and corporate employees in California won a court ruling allowing them to sue as a group over claims they often can’t take meal and rest breaks required by state law.

California Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager in San Diego yesterday allowed the case to go forward as a class action, saying it wouldn’t be affordable for the individual employees to proceed on their own because of the small potential recovery for each of them. Prager also said it would be more efficient for the claims to be resolved as a group case.

“Rather than having over 20,995 separate lawsuits or Labor Commissioner hearings regarding the same claims alleged in this action, a class action allows all individual actions to be resolved once on behalf of all claimants,” the judge said.

The employees allege Apple, based in Cupertino, California, had a scheduling policy that made taking meal and rest breaks extremely difficult, according to the judge’s order. Employees weren’t allowed to go on break until they were done helping customers, which had a domino effect on the next employee’s scheduled break, according to the order.

Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the ruling.

The case is Felczer v. Apple Inc., 37-2011-00102593, California Superior Court (San Diego).

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