Five things to know about meal and rest breaks in California
The right to be treated fairly in the workplace extends to all U.S. citizens. However, there is sadly no shortage of employers who will attempt to deny their employees the rights, compensation, and respect they deserve. All non-exempt employees are entitled to meal and rest breaks. The following rul
1. General rules of meal breaksIn California, employers are required to provide the opportunity for a 30-minute uninterrupted meal break within the first five hours of work. For example, if the employee started working at 9 a.m., the employer must allow the employee to take a 30-minute uninterrupted meal break before 1 p.m. This period of time does not require the employer to pay the employee, but the employer may not require the employee to work through his/her break without paying them a premium of 1 hour of work.
An employee that works 10 hours is not only entitled to overtime, but also to a second 30-minute uninterrupted meal break. It is highly encouraged for employees to keep records of when employees "punch in" and "punch out" for their meal breaks.
2. General rules of rest breaksEmployers are required to provide the opportunity for a 10-minute uninterrupted rest break for every four hours of work. There are no requirements to maintain records of these breaks. This generally permits employees to use the restroom or to step outside for a quick break.
3. Waiver of Meal BreakIf an employee's workday is for 6 hours or less, that employee can then waive his or her right to a meal break without being paid a premium. The waiver has to be mutually agreed upon by both the employer and employee and can be revoked at any point in time. If an employee works more than 6 hours, then by law, he is required to take a 30-minute meal break opportunity within the first five hours. Again, if an employee works ten hours, he or she can waive the second meal break unless he or she works in excess of 12 hours.
4. Are employees required to take their breaks?In 2012, the California Supreme Court answered this question in the Brinkerv. Superior Court case. The Court found that an employer need only provide an employee with the opportunity for a meal break and allow the employee to leave the worksite. Employers are not required to police employees to make sure no one works during a break.
If the employee, on his or her own accord and volition decides to continue to work or answer calls during their meal break, there is no meal break violation. On the other hand, if the employee is too busy and swamped with work such that there is no opportunity to take an uninterrupted meal break, he or she is then entitled to the premium pay of 1 hour of work.
5. Tips if you are not receiving proper meal and rest breaksHopefully this isn't the case for you, but if it is, then we recommend filing a complaint with your employer or HR representative in written text or email. This will prevent a future conflicting scenario of "he said, she said" if your employer disputes your claim of meal and rest break violations. Keep a journal of why and when each interruption occurred and try to keep any record you can.
If you are not receiving proper meal and rest breaks, or have any further questions please do not hesitate to call HM Legal Group at 818.660.5088.