Missed Meal Breaks
CALIFORNIA MEAL BREAK LAWS CAN BE CONFUSING. WHEN THE COURTS CAN’T AGREE ON MEAL BREAK RULES, IT’S NO WONDER EMPLOYEES AREN’T SURE OF THEIR LEGAL RIGHTS.
FAR TOO OFTEN, EMPLOYERS FACE MEAL BREAK LAWSUITS BECAUSE THEY DON’T RESPECT YOUR RIGHTS.
IN FACT, MEAL AND REST BREAK VIOLATIONS ARE ONE OF THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF CALIFORNIA EMPLOYER WAGE AND HOUR VIOLATIONS, TOTALING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS AWARDED TO WORKERS.
How Meal Breaks Work:
In California, if you work more than 5 hours in one day, your employer must provide you with a meal break that is at least 30 minutes. Your employer must relieve you of all of your essential duties and responsibilities so that you can actually take an uninterrupted, off-duty, meal period that is at least 30 minutes.
Meal Break Times:
The meal break must begin before you have completed 5 hours of work in the day, which means the meal break must begin at 4 hours and 59 minutes on the clock or before. The meal break must be completely uninterrupted. Your employer is not allowed to ask you any work-related questions during your meal period, or require you to work through any part of it. You have to be free to leave the company premises during your meal period. Your employer must relinquish all control during your meal period. You have to be free to do whatever you want to do during your meal break.
An Employer’s Duty:
Your employer has a duty to record the actual start and end times of your meal periods to the minute. If you experience a short, late, interrupted, or missed meal period, your employer has a duty to provide you with an additional 1 hour of pay for each violation. These payments are called meal break penalties or meal break premiums, but they are actually compensation equal to 1 hour of pay for each violation at your regular rate of pay.
Additional Meal Breaks:
Also, if you work more than 10 hours in any work day, your employer must provide you a second meal period of at least 30 minutes. This second meal period must begin no later than your 10th hour of work. Your employer may not discourage or prevent you from taking any of your meal periods. Your employer may not require you to skip or work through your meal periods. Your employer may also not retaliate against you for wanting to take your legally-mandated meal periods.
In order for an employer to fulfill its obligation of providing legally-compliant meal breaks, an employer must do everything possible to prevent the following:
- Burdening an employee with unreasonable work expectations which force an employee to work through meal breaks
- Unreasonably denying overtime compensation to the employee which forces an employee to work through meal periods to complete all assigned daily tasks.
- Placing unreasonable deadlines or quotas on the employee, which force the employee to work through meal periods
- Requiring employees to take their meal breaks on the company premises
- Requiring the employee to respond to customer inquiries during meal breaks
- Requiring employees to take meal breaks later than what is required under California in order to finish work-related tasks
- Conducting security checks, bag checks, and coat checks while the employee is off the clock during a meal break
- Requiring employees to wait in line to clock back in after taking a meal break
- Not allowing employees to report meal periods that are shorter than 30 minutes
- Requiring employees to falsely record that they have taken a meal break when the employer failed to provide a meal break
- Requiring employees to don and doff personal protective equipment (or PPE’s) during meal breaks
Contact Lawyers for Justice, PC Today for a Free Consultation
If you feel you’ve been denied a meal break, contact Lawyers for Justice, PC, and we’ll determine if your employer violated any federal or state laws. To get started, call (818) 647-9323 and receive a free consultation, today!