Unpaid MEAL & REST PERIODS
MEAL & REST PERIODS IN CALIFORNIA
YOUR RIGHT TO REASONABLE BREAKS
The California Supreme Court recently took measures to resolve the common obscurities and uncertainties regarding employers’ responsibilities to provide employees with meal and rest periods. In a decision reached in 2012, the California Supreme Court clarified employers’ obligations when it comes to providing workers with adequate break periods. Although there are a number of various elements that were highlighted, they outlined the requirements to provide meal periods to nonexempt (hourly employees).
The key holdings from the court’s opinion included meal periods are needed to:
- Relieve them of all duty
- Not interfere with their ability to take an uninterrupted break
- Provide them with a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break
In addition, the court also ruled that employers are not required to “police” meal breaks, meaning that they are not liable for paying employees who choose to work during their break unless they knew or should have known that the employee was working during the meal period. This Supreme Court decision serves to highlight that employment law is a widely disputed, complex and ever-changing area of law. It also exemplifies that the government takes care to ensure the rights and fair treatment of workers.
KNOWLEDGEABLE EMPLOYMENT ATTORNEYS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
In California, employers are required by law to provide nonexempt, or hourly, workers with an unpaid 30-minute meal period during the first five hours of each work day. Employees who do not work more than 6 hours in a day can voluntarily sign a written waiver of the meal period, thereby waiving their right to the unpaid 30-minute break. Additionally, all hourly employees who work more than 10 hours in a day are entitled to a second unpaid 30-minute meal period, unless they voluntarily sign a written waiver specifically for the second meal period. Any failure by an employer to provide these meal periods may result in employees’ entitlement to extra pay and may subject the employer to potential penalties.
Hourly employees are entitled to take a paid rest break for 10 minutes for every four hours worked or “major fraction thereof.” While there is no obligation to make rest breaks come before or after meal periods, employers must still take reasonable measures to provide their employees with rest periods. When they fail to do so, employees may be eligible for compensation and employers may be subject to penalties.
The rest period laws provide the following for nonexempt employees:
- 10-minute rest periods for shifts lasting from three and a half hours to six hours in length
- Two 10-minute rest periods for shifts lasting from six hours to 10 hours
- And so on, according to four-hour increments as indicated in the law