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Are meal breaks required by law? Presently, employers are not obliged by federal law to provide their employees with meal, lunch, or break periods. But the law does set obligations on employers who do so at their own discretion. Employers who give a non-meal period of 20 minutes or less to a worker are required to pay the latter for their break time. However, they do not need to pay employees for a bona fide meal or lunch period that typically lasts 30 minutes or more. This is on the condition that the worker will have the freedom to do anything that they wish during their break.
Employers may also need to pay a worker for their work during a supposedly unpaid bona fide meal or lunch break. The Fair Labor Standards Act may require employers to pay additional wages to an employee who has worked during that particular period. These payments may include unintended overtime wages.
If your employer fails to implement any of the above-mentioned actions in your workplace, he or she is liable for a meal break violation. In such cases, it is best to seek legal assistance from expert meal and rest lawyers with extensive knowledge of California work break laws. With years of experience in handling these particular cases, Mesriani Law Group’s Los Angeles-based meal and rest attorneys are committed to giving you outstanding and competent legal assistance throughout your case.
How do Employers Provide Meal and Rest Breaks in California?
There are several U.S. states that require meal breaks, and California is one of twenty states that enforce generally applicable meal break laws. Under California meal break laws, every employee should be given at least 30 minutes of meal break periods for more than five hours of straight work a day. But if an employee renders work for more than 10 hours per day, employers are required to give them another meal break period of at least 30 minutes.
California is also one of eight states that implement generally applicable rest break laws for the private sector. A paid 10-minute rest break for each four-hour work period should be approved and granted to employees. This break should practically take place between each work period. However, employees with less than 3.5 hours of total daily work time are not obliged to take the 10-minute break.
Which Employees are Covered by California Work Break Laws?
California rest break laws typically cover non-exempt employees in the state. But these statutes do not apply to executives, administrative workers, medical and legal professionals, and other exempt employees. There are also special requirements for meal and rest breaks that cover workers in the following industries:
- Healthcare and group-home care
- Heavy-duty operations
- Construction work
- Motion pictures
- Professional driving
- Electrical, gas, and other utilities
An example of these special rules is the break requirement for motion picture workers. Under IWC Order 12-2001, they should be given at least 30 minutes of breaks if they have more than six working hours.
Furthermore, California meal break laws exclude construction workers, commercial drivers, private security officers, and utility company employees if a collective bargaining agreement with a clear provision for meal breaks applies to these workers.
Should Employers Force their Workers to Work During Breaks?
According to the California Supreme Court, employers should provide their workers with available meal breaks. However, they do not need to make sure that workers take these breaks. Lunch break laws in California also stipulate that employers should not make a worker wait for any client or be on standby for any work-related matters during meal breaks. Employers should also make sure that there will be another worker to take the place of the employee on break. This ensures that the latter is free to leave the workplace in his or her downtime if desired.
The on-duty meal break in California also has its exceptions. For instance, a sole employee at a coffee kiosk or convenience store and their employer may agree to an on-duty meal break. The employer will reimburse the worker for this type of break. It will also be regarded as the employee’s regular work time. Employers can only request their workers to be on-duty during their break in this particular exception.
What is the Penalty for California Employers with Work Break Violations?
Employers who do not provide meal and rest breaks in California are in violation of the California labor law on meal breaks, and are subject to particular penalties under state law. The law sets the meal penalty for California employers who fail to give a bona fide break to non-exempt workers at an hour of additional pay for each workday that this violation takes place. As for rest break penalties, employers must also pay workers with another additional hour of regular pay for each workday that a rest break violation takes place.
California law also states that employers owe a maximum penalty of two hours of pay per day for missed meal or rest breaks. This is regardless of an employee’s total number of missed meal or rest breaks during a particular workday. Additionally, employers can grant 1.5x regular pay to workers with eight-hour shifts if the former does not give rest breaks. This is for the rest break time that employers should have granted to these employees.
Employers must include the additional pay for any missed meal or rest breaks in the worker’s next paycheck.
Can Employees Sue their Employer for Meal & Rest Break Violations?
If an employer refuses to grant meal and rest breaks to workers, they can be sued in court. Workers can also file a class action lawsuit on behalf of other workers who have experienced the same situation. A plaintiff generally has to file a meal or rest break suit within three years of their employer’s alleged violation.
Employees can collect any of the following types of compensation from a meal or rest break claim:
- Back pay for time worked during lunch breaks
- Damages for pain and suffering
- Punitive damages
Seek Legal Assistance from a Top Los Angeles Meal and Rest Breaks Attorney
A meal or rest break lawsuit can be complex in nature. Your employer can even have a lawyer that can deny your claims, leaving you at a disadvantage if you try to settle them on your own. Thus, hiring an experienced lawyer is your best recourse if you are seeking just compensation from your employer. A good attorney can help you get a fair settlement and avoid the ordeal of a court trial by serving as a competent negotiator for your case. Consider contacting Mesriani Law Group today for a free consultation with our expert Los Angeles meal and rest periods attorney.