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What, Why, and How Of California Meal and Rest Break Management


Know What Rest And Meal Breaks Are

Build Your Systems And Policies

Know Where Your
Liability Is

Monitor Your Systems And Enforce Your Policies

Know Why Trial Lawyers Zero In On These

Review Periodically


Know What Rest And Meal Breaks Are

  • Let’s start with what we know about California Law.
  • Meal breaks and rest breaks are different animals and therefore handled differently.
  • A meal break must be documented in-line on the timecard with very specific parameters.
  • It does not need to be a paid break.
  • A rest break must be provided at specific intervals and must be a paid break.
  • Both meal and rest breaks must be duty free and free of interruptions.


Know Where Your
Liability Is

Any violation of the rest or meal break can cause serious liability. These claims fall under California wage and hour statutes that create an ecosystem for trial lawyers to build entire business models around.

  • Remember the standard remedy in cases of an infraction – 1 hr premium pay (One hour of the employee’s wage; but does not accrue towards OT)
  • Any of the following will result in the company owing one hour of premium pay per day
    • Meal breaks too short
    • Meal break starts after the 5th hour
    • No meal break given or taken
    • Interrupted meal break
    • Opportunity to take rest breaks not provided

*These are just some of the basic liabilities. Consult with your lawyer for a full list.


Know Why Trial Lawyers Zero In On These

Because they can argue it is your fault if your employees don’t take these breaks, it is something that must be
done right every single day by every single employee.

It is a simple fishing expedition that usually goes like this: An ad on the radio claims that companies are taking advantage of employees and one call will make them rich. 

An employee can make any claim they want to the lawyer without a shred of proof or fear of retaliation and now the lawyer is entitled to that employee’s and others’ payroll records.

It is very easy to find violations in your payroll records.


Build Your Systems
And Policies

Your policy should start by ensuring employees understand their rights and personal responsibility regarding meal and rest breaks. Additionally, this policy should not only encourage them to come forward if they feel those rights have been violated, but also give them a clear way to do so. Finally, the policy should communicate that failing to take and document timely meal breaks will result in disciplinary action.


Monitor Your Systems And Enforce Your Policies

Our settings are configurable to eliminate short meals. We also flag missed and delayed meal breaks.

Further, the software can capture why an employee has a missed or delayed meal break using automated surveys. This assists in determining whether the violation is employee-driven, which would result in no premium pay being owed.

We also have the ability to log meal and rest break premium pay directly into the timecard as a separate line item.

Management of non-compliance will be challenging. You will need to assign resources.  You will likely need additional documentation to tie flags to action. This commitment will be ongoing. Creating a company culture about meal and rest breaks is the key to success.


Review Periodically

Any system is only as good as the people using it. Ensuring policies are up to date and properly followed is critical to your success as is training your supervisors and leads why scheduling meal and rest breaks properly protects the company from costly premium pay.

Have your HR policies reviewed every year by an expert.

Worksana allows you to run reports for any time period to see who is committing meal violations. This enables you to zero in on problems quickly.

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