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Rest and meal breaks in California are a topic of much discussion – they’ve been included in the California Wage Orders for more than 30 years! Nonetheless, the rules are continuously evolving, it seems. Rest periods (both for meals and for other rest breaks) are legally mandated for employees who work more than a specified number of hours, and employers can get into legal troubles for non-compliance. In a BLR webinar titled "Meal & Rest Breaks in California: Long-Awaited Brinker Decision Is Finally Here; What It Means for You," Marc L. Jacuzzi outlined some guidance on rest and meal breaks in California. Here are some tips on when meal breaks must be given.
Meal breaks in California are mandated by law. Jacuzzi explained that "when someone is suffered or permitted to work . . . for 5 hours, an employer is put to a choice" on what they may do. The employer must either:
Failure to do one of these will render the employer liable for premium pay, and the amounts add up quickly.
An employer may not employ an employee for a work period of more than 5 hours per day without providing the employee with a meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that if the total work period per day of the employee is no more than 6 hours, the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of both the employer and employee.
An employer may not employ an employee for a work period of more than 10 hours per day without providing the employee with a second meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that if the total hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee only if the first meal period was not waived.
Unless the employee is relieved of all duty during a 30 minute meal period, the meal period shall be considered an "on-duty" meal period and counted as time worked. An "on-duty" meal period shall be permitted only when the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all duty and when by written agreement between the parties an on-the-job paid meal period is agreed to. The written agreement shall state that the employee may, in writing, revoke the agreement at any time.
Simply allowing a meal break within these timeframes is not sufficient. To comply with regulations on rest and meal breaks in California, an employer must:
Something as simple as a lunch break can have consequences if not properly applied. Are you in compliance?
To register for a future webinar, visit http://catalog.blr.com/audio.
Marc L. Jacuzzi, Esq., is a shareholder in the law firm of Simpson, Garrity, Innes & Jacuzzi (www.sgilaw.com). He advises clients regarding all aspects of the employer/employee relationship including hiring and termination, wage and hour requirements, employee classification, civil rights and discrimination issues, employee investigations, commission plans, employment contracts, employee handbooks and policies, confidential information agreements, reductions in force, leaves of absence, employment audits, M&A employment issues, violence in the workplace, and international employment issues.
It's important to remember that even if an employee violates a clear policy against working through lunch, you still have to pay for that time.