Update on Meal Period and Rest Break Rules in California

8 Apr

You may have thought that the 2012 California Supreme Court decision about meal periods and rest breaks settled all the legal problems for employers – wishful thinking.

A recent Federal court case involving these issues continues to demonstrate that good time records are important, even for employer who has the correct policies. In this case, DeLeon v. Time Warner, time records showing missed or late meal periods. But the records, standing alone, are not determinative of whether a meal period violation has occurred. As long as meal periods are properly scheduled and employees are relieved of duty (i.e., not pressured to stay on duty) during the scheduled meal periods, if an employee chooses to delay or perform work during the scheduled meal period, no violation has occurred, even though employees must be paid for all hours they are “suffered or permitted” to work during such meal periods.

In California, employees need only be authorized and permitted to take their rest periods. If an employee prefers to continue working – the employer has not pressured the employee – there is no violation.

The question for you should be – #1- what do your policies say? And #2- what do your time records indicate? (Do your hourly or “non-exempt” employees record their meal periods on their time records as non-working time?)
(Thanks to Fisher & Phillips Wage and Hour Update for this information).

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