Under the California labor law, employers are required to provide 30 minutes meal breaks to employees. However, such law is often confusing to the point that in some cases, employees erroneously file for a complaint regarding untaken meal breaks, which in turn was simply dismissed or disfavored by the court.
Accordingly, for the benefit of employees, as well as the avid Internet readers, a legal counsel in his years of expertise explains two related cases of untaken meal breaks.
In the first example, under the employer’s meal and rest break policy, employees are required to take 30-minute unpaid meal breaks after working longer than five hours and to take paid rest break after working longer than four hours. The said policy also stated that violations could result in disciplinary actions, including termination, and was actually signed by employees as acknowledgment.
However, despite the said meal and rest break policy attested by both employer and employees, there are some instances when employees file for a class-action lawsuit claiming that they weren’t provided with their break time and that their employer had to ensure that breaks were taken.
Meanwhile, employees should note that although under the state law and wage orders an employer must relieve the employee of all duties and responsibilities for the designated meal breaks, it also stressed that there is no need for employers to ensure that employees do not work.
In another case, under an employer’s revised meal and rest break policy, the 30 minutes would be automatically deducted from employees’ working time as unpaid meal breaks. Consequently, employees who could not eat were told to report the matter to their supervisors for the purpose of avoiding deductions from their working time. Employees were likewise informed about the said modification in policy. They also signed the policy as a proof that they understood its content.
Shortly after attesting to the policy, a complaint was raised. The employees claimed that their employer failed to pay their overtime wages for untaken meal breaks. They further claimed that they weren’t aware that they have to inform their immediate supervisor.
This time, the court dismissed the case. Why? It is simply because the employees failed to report to their supervisor that they could not take their meal breaks.
As it is, automatic deductions for meal breaks are lawful. Such deductions only become unlawful when an employer refuses to pay employees who work through unpaid meal breaks or fails to supervise non-exempts and their supervisors to ensure that employees who work through meal breaks will get paid.
Employees should be reminded as well that in the event of untaken unpaid meal breaks, their employers should be informed through their supervisors.
In his own little way, a Los Angeles labor lawyer anticipates that employees take note of such simple points of reminders to help them build a better and smoother civil relationship with their employers.