Wage and Hour Employee & Worker's Rights
Failure To Provide Meal and Rest Breaks
Many employees are deprived of full meal breaks and many times denied rest breaks. Corporations are increasingly under pressure to provide immediate customer service. Resultantly, many industries where customers need to be promptly addressed and greeted, such as the restaurants, medical offices or hotel front desks, breaks are frequently denied or employees are pressured to skip them. Let’s explain what is a rest break and what is a meal break.
Employers of non-exempt employees have a legal duty to permit their employees to enjoy a rest period when they work shifts that exceed a certain number of hours. A rest period is an uninterrupted 10-minute period during which employees are not required to work. Employees are entitled to be paid during their rest periods. Employers are required to provide suitable resting facilities in an area separate from the toilet rooms during work hours.
The number of rest periods an employee must take will depend on the length of their shift. Generally, employees have a right to ten minutes of rest time for every four hour period they work. Employees are not, however, entitled to a break period if they work fewer than three-and-a-half hours.
California’s regulations require rest breaks to fall in the middle of work periods “insofar as practicable.” In general, employers are required to make a good faith effort to permit rest breaks to be taken in the middle of each work period. But if there are practical considerations that render that impractical, the employer can give the rest periods at other times during the shift.
An employer is required to permit the amount of rest period time to which an employee is entitled. California law permits employees to skip rest periods if they so choose, and there is no penalty to the employer if they do so. But employers may not pressure or encourage their employees to skip rest periods. Nor may California employers require their employees to remain on-site or on-call during rest periods.
In addition to rest breaks, employers are required to provide meal breaks. Employers of non-exempt employees have a legal duty to permit their employees to take meal breaks when they work shifts that exceed a certain number of hours.
A meal break is an uninterrupted 30-minute period during which employees are free to attend to their personal business. Meal breaks are usually unpaid, unless the employer fails to relieve the employee of all duties. Employees on a meal break must be allowed to leave the premises or remain on site—the choice belongs to them. An employee who works more than five hours is entitled to one 30-minute meal break. An employee who works more than ten hours is entitled to a second 30-minute meal break.
An employee’s first meal break must start before the end of the employee’s fifth hour of work. If an employee is entitled to a second meal period, it must start before the end of the employee’s tenth hour of work.
The employer has no obligation to police meal breaks or ensure that the employee performs no work during the meal break. But they may not impede or discourage their employees from taking one.
If the employee works six hours or less, the meal period can be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee. If the employee works more than six hours, the meal period may not be waived.
If the employee works twelve hours or less, their second meal period can be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee—but only if they didn’t waive their first meal period.
If the employer fails to provide multiple rest breaks or meal periods, the employee can earn up to one extra hour per workday for their missed rest periods and an additional one hour per workday for their missed meal breaks.
If you believe you have been deprived of rest or meal breaks, or your business is facing such claims, please contact the wage and hour attorneys at Shalchi Burch LLP as soon as possible.