Meal and Rest Breaks
Our Sacramento Employee Attorneys are happy to help you determine if you have claims for meal and rest breaks. Providing an employee ten minutes to rest and relax during the work day is not just a matter of being a good employer, it is the law!
In our fast-paced world, employers expect employees to work non-stop through their day. They put pressure on the employees to achieve goals, to satisfy customers, and to accomplish tasks. Sadly, employers fail to give employees needed time to rest and relax in order to reach these goals.
Who is entitled to a rest break and how often?
Under California law, a rest period is required for virtually all non-exempt employees that work more than three and one-half hours in a day. To the extent possible, employees shall be permitted to take those rest breaks as near to the middle of the work period as possible. The rest period must be for a minimum of ten consecutive minutes, and is considered “on-the-clock.” Since the rest periods are paid time off, the employer is not required to allow the employee to leave the premises for their rest periods. Rather, the employer can require the employee to remain on the employer’s premises during the rest periods.
Who is entitled to a meal break?
With few exemptions, in California, if an employee works more than five hours in a day, an employer is required to provide their employee with at least a thirty-minute uninterrupted meal period. During that meal break, an employee must be relieved of all duties and responsibilities for that entire period of time. Being relieved of duties means all duties. An employer cannot require an employee to eat at their desk, be on stand-by for phone calls or interruptions, or otherwise perform any job functions. If physically possible, the employee must be provided the opportunity to leave the workplace for their lunch break.
The law does however allow (in some situations) for some meal breaks to be taken while on duty. In those scenarios, the meal period must be counted as hours worked and the employee must be paid their normal wages for that meal period.
One of the most common defenses to meal break claims is the fact the employee was provided an “opportunity” to take a meal break and chose not to do so. While this may technically be a valid defense, a critical question that arises is whether that opportunity to take a meal break was genuine. An employer who says “be sure to take your lunch break,” yet places deadlines and work pressures on employees that can’t be satisfied if time is taken out for breaks is not in compliance with the law.
What happens if I do not receive my meal break or my rest break?
In California, if you were not provided with an opportunity for meal and rest breaks, you may be entitled to one additional hours’ wages for each occurrence. You may also be entitled to recovery of all of your attorneys’ fees, interest, court costs, and possibly even waiting time penalties for not being provided meal and rest breaks. If you have been denied meal and rest breaks, please contact one of the Sacramento Employee Attorneys at Eason & Tambornini for a free consultation.