Wage and Hour Compliance

Meal and Rest Periods

In recent years, meal and rest break policies have been the subject of various class action lawsuits.

In 2012, the California Supreme Court issued an important decision on meal and rest break policies - Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court. The court provided some guidance to employers as to their meal and rest break obligations. Several issues, however, were not entirely resolved by the court. The court noted that the exact manner in which meal and rest break requirements are satisfied may also vary from industry to industry.

Your policy must clearly communicate to employees that you (the employer) have the obligation to provide meal and rest breaks.

Meal Periods

If an employee works more than five hours in a day, he/she must be provided an uninterrupted, unpaid (or paid, if you prefer) meal period of at least 30 minutes.

The California Supreme Court has held that an employer's obligation to provide this meal period is met if:

  • The employer relieves the employee of all duties.
  • The employer relinquishes control over the employee's activities.
  • The employer permits the employee a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break.
  • The employer does not impede or discourage the employee from taking meal period.

Once you have provided the meal break as set forth above, you are "not obligated to police meal breaks and ensure no work thereafter is performed." The employer is to relinquish control over the employee's time, including whether the employee chooses to work during the meal period.

Rest Periods

California law requires employers to grant a 10-minute net rest period for every four (4) hours of work in a day or major fraction thereof. A "major fraction thereof" is considered to be anything more than two (2) hours. You do not have to provide a rest period if the employee's total daily work time is less than three hours and one half (3.5) hours.

This policy sets forth the exact number of rest breaks for hours worked that was specified by the California Supreme Court in the Brinker case. Provide the correct number of rest breaks for every worked shift:

  • One 10min rest break for shifts 3.5 - 6.0hrs long;
  • Two 10min rest breaks for shifts 6.0 - 10.0hrs long;
  • Three 10min rest breaks for shifts 10.0 - 14.0hrs long, and so on.

The requirement is to provide a 10-minute "net" rest period. This has been interpreted by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement to mean that the rest period begins when the employee reaches an area away from the work station that is appropriate for rest.

Overtime

Your company must comply with state and federal wage and hour laws regarding overtime for non-exempt employees . Your company is obligated to pay overtime premiums if it knew or had reason to believe that employees were working the requisite number of hours to receive overtime pay. Therefore, your company's overtime policy should include:

  • A provision that overtime must be authorized in advance. Unauthorized overtime work performed by an employee does not excuse your company from its overtime pay obligation. However, the employee can be subject to discipline if your company has a well-enforced rule prohibiting overtime without prior authorization;
  • A statement that time off with pay for any reason will not count toward overtime calculation; and
  • A definition of workweek and workday for use in computing overtime.

Any work that an employer knows its employee is doing for the company, should have known that the employee was doing for the company, permits or allows the employee to do for the company, or requests that the employee do for the company is going to be considered work time for purposes of overtime (and for the purposes of paying wages for any time worked, generally). At that point, overtime will start when the employee is:

  • Working more than 40 hours in a workweek; or
  • Working more than 8 hours in a workday; or
  • Working a 7th consecutive day in a workweek.

There are some exceptions to these rules (motion picture employees, live-in household employees, agricultural workers, resident managers, ambulance drivers, and others); but, as a general practice, you will not go astray following what is written above.

For more information on these topics and other similar topics such as exempt/non-exempt status, reporting time, wage deductions, internships, and paying part-time v. full-time, contact us at 805-695-2827, 661-268-6242, or fill out this online form to talk with an attorney.