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To Meal Period Defense

1. Create a meal period policy

Due to the complex nature of managing meal periods many companies will make meal breaks a mandatory for employees. This eliminates any gray area of employees trying to say they did not want to take one.

Consider offering a 6-hour waiver if your employees routinely work between 5-6 hours. The waiver is not appropriate if employees work more than 6 hour shifts.

Reference the state law within your policy.

Do not confuse meal waivers with on-duty meal agreements, which generally are not allowed.

2. Communicate your meal period policy

This is a complex policy you should always review with your counsel.

Meet with your management team and make sure everyone understands the policy.

Have your supervisors communicate one on one with your existing staff.

Support existing staff to escalate questions above immediate supervisors.

Review and document any questions so you can evolve your policy to become more clearly understood.

Add to your onboarding and training documents for new employees.

Follow up on the process for the first 30 days to make sure everyone is following the procedures correctly.

3. Track meal period violations

Make sure your time and attendance system prompts employees to take their meal breaks.

Make sure your time and attendance system logs violations.

Make sure your system can get the information as close to real time as possible because these violations are time sensitive.

4. Validate your meal break violations

Begin corrective inquires as soon as potential violations occur.

This means following up in a timely manner with the employee to determine if the system flag is due to an employee error, a violation of company policy, or voluntarily missed or taken late by request.

Document your employee’s response in your time and attendance system. You may need proof in the event of a subpoena.

Additionally you will want to track if an employee is a chronic offender of either errors or violations.

5. Take timely action with meal break violations

If determined to be legitimate make sure premium pay is issued in the same pay period as the violation occurs.

If failing to take a proper meal break is a violation of your company policy, make sure to file a coaching/ counseling report at the same time.

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