Why Should Companies Establish Policies for Rest Periods and Meal Breaks

Every business in the state of California must comply with federal wage and hour laws as well as with state labor laws protecting workers.  If your organization fails to follow the letter of the law, you could be investigated by the Department of Labor and forced to compensate workers who did not receive benefits or compensation they were entitled to.  You could also face federal or state litigation, with all associated costs and risks that litigation entails. policies for meal breaks

Some companies do not do enough to protect themselves in case of a Department of Labor investigation or in case of a lawsuit. You do not want to take the risk of a large plaintiff’s verdict against you business, nor of facing significant government penalties.  It is important that you establish policies for rest periods and meal breaks. By putting policies into place setting forth the rules for how workers will be paid, you can reduce the risk of being found in violation of labor laws. A San Diego employment law attorney at Sepahi Law Group, APC can help you to establish good business practices and clear written policies, so call today to learn more.

How to Establish Policies for Rest Periods and Meal Breaks

California law establishes minimum requirements for meal breaks. You should have written guidelines in place guaranteeing that employees will receive all required breaks and meal periods. Under the law:

  • Employers must provide the opportunity for an unpaid, off-duty meal break of at least 30 consecutive minutes if an employee works for more than a five hour period of time. The first meal break provided to an employee must occur no later than the end of the fifth work hour.
  • The employee must be relieved of all work duties and the employer must relinquish all control over the worker’s activities.  The employer must not discourage or impede workers from taking a meal break.
  • Employers must provide a second meal break of at least 30 minutes on any workdays where an employee works for more than 10 hours. The second break must occur no later than the 10th hour of work.
  • Employees can take on-duty meal breaks instead of off-duty meal breaks in limited circumstances only if the meal break is paid, the nature of the work prevents an employer from being relieved of all work duties, and the on-duty meal break is agreed to in writing by both the employer and employee.  The employee must also be given the option to revoke his consent to the on-duty meal break in writing at any time.

Employers are not required to ensure that employees take an unpaid meal break, but must offer one. If a worker’s complete work day lasts for no more than six hours, the employer and employee may agree by mutual consent to waive the meal break. If the day will last between 10 and 12 hours, the employer and employee may agree to waive the second meal break provided that they both consent to do so and provided that the first meal break of the day was not waived.

The law also requires employers to offer 10-minute rest periods for non-exempt employees if the worker has a daily work time of at least 3.5 hours.  At least one 10 minute break must be offered for every four hours (or major fraction thereof) that an employee works.  Any amount of work over two hours is considered to be a major fraction of four hours.  When possible, the break should be in the middle of the four hour period.  Rest periods must be treated and paid as time worked, and employees may be required to remain on the premises.

Why You Need to Establish Policies for Meal and Rest Breaks

Policies for meal and rest breaks are important because you do not want workers to complain they are not getting required breaks and you want to be able to prove in a Department of Labor investigation that you complied with the law.  When an employer fails to offer a meal break or a rest period, the employee is owed one hour of pay per failure per day.  This can become very costly for your business.

Sepahi Law Group, APC will help your company to establish policies for meal and rest breaks. Call today to schedule a consultation and learn more.

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