Grass Valley, CA– BriarPatch Food Co-op’s hourly employees are now enjoying two and a half hours of extra free time a week and an estimated 130 hours annually thanks to a new workday policy implemented at the store.  

BriarPatch staff

On December 26, BriarPatch Food Co-op began paying for employee lunch breaks as part of a new eight-hour workday policy. This means instead of having an 8.5-hour shift schedule with a 30-minute unpaid lunch, hourly employees now have an 8-hour shift schedule with a 30-minute paid lunch. 

The change comes at a time when private businesses across the country are trying a four-day workweek to reduce burnout while maintaining productivity. 

“If we’ve learned anything from the last few years, it is that the job market was more easily disrupted than we could have ever predicted. In this environment, it’s important for us to be creative and ensure that we have compelling, compassionate and relevant jobs for the people in our community. More than ever, workers are looking for flexibility in the workplace and the ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance. BriarPatch is helping folks do just that,” said General Manager Chris Maher.  

A memo from the Co-op’s HR Department circulated to employees late last year outlined the new policy. 

“Our Global Ends Policies focus our work on goals that serve our community, shoppers and employees. Global End #5 states that we will be a major employer that provides a healthy, equitable and considerate workplace for our employees.  

We understand that recent cost-cutting measures have been difficult for many of us along with rising inflation that affects us all. To that end, we will be implementing a change to scheduling that will benefit our hourly staff.”  

The change was good news for Nancy Godfrey, a BriarPatch employee for 12 years who commutes 48 miles to work and back each day from her mountain Sierra Foothill home at 3,400 feet elevation in Placer County to serve as a Buyer in the Bulk Department.  

“For me, because I have a long commute, it’s helpful. It gives me that extra half hour to get up the mountain. That way I can get home before dark in the winter months. When you’re dealing with snow and rain, an extra half hour can be an element of safety,” said Godfrey.  

She noted that some of her co-workers commute from as far away as Alta, Camptonville, Rocklin and beyond. 

BriarPatch is in the top 25 major employers in Nevada County, based on labor market information published by the State of California, Employment Development Department. Employing upwards of 249 people, BriarPatch is the only locally and cooperatively owned grocery store on the list. Later this year, The Co-op will open a second location in Auburn, providing job opportunities for residents of Placer County.  

The Co-op has an open door to leadership, and it is common for employees to “climb the ladder” and grow a career at the Co-op. Employees receive paid time off, competitive health benefits, Co-op ownership, a matching 401k and quarterly profit share. 

In 2021, BriarPatch raised the base rate of pay of its employees above the California Minimum Wage. The new shorter workday is icing on the cake.  

“In the end, it’s like having a little raise and we get off earlier. It’s a good thing,” said Nelson Bastian, Bulk Buyer as he worked to take inventory. 

It is a welcome change for the home lifestyle of Grey Lennox, Assistant Produce Manager. 

“It’s been good. I get home to let my dogs out faster and if I have an errand to run after work, I get home earlier,” said Lennox. 

“We appreciate the work our employees put in every day to make BriarPatch a successful and vibrant community hub and we hope this change will give staff back some time every day,” said LeeAnne Haglund, Director of Human Resources.