Workers in California, especially those who perform jobs for 8 hours or more in a single workday, aren’t capable of doing their duties with no interruptions whatsoever. At a specific period within a workday, they should be entitled to rest breaks so that they could energize themselves for another round of work, as well as one or two meal periods for them to satisfy their hunger. Fortunately, California law requires employers to provide meal periods and rest breaks to non-exempt workers (that is, those who are not exempted from receiving overtime). Fulfilling the labor laws on meal and rest breaks, however, should not be done for the sake of compliance. It is also the responsibility of employers covered by these laws to communicate to their workers their rights to use certain periods of a workday to eat their meals and take short rests.
Basically, a meal period is an unpaid, 30-minute break that is given to an employee depending on how much hours he or she has worked over a single workday. Under California law, a covered employer is not allowed to employ an individual for a work period of more than five hours without giving him or her a one 30-minute meal period, which is provided no later than the person’s fifth hour of work. If the individual works for more than ten hours, then he or she is afforded with not just the first meal period, but also a second one, which is provided at his or her 10th hour of work. The only time the employer adheres with its legal obligations regarding meal breaks is if it relieves the person’s duties, gives up control over his or her duties, allows him or her to take an uninterrupted meal break and doesn’t stop him or her from doing so.
However, there are circumstances in which a meal period can be waived. The first meal period can be waived if the person’s hours worked is no more than 6 hours, while the second meal period can be waived if he or she worked for no more than 12 hours and the first meal period wasn’t waived. Also, a meal break could be taken on-duty, or within the place where the person is working. This is only allowed if the nature of the person’s work doesn’t allow for the employee to be relieved of his or her duty, agrees with the employer in writing, and is paid.
Meanwhile, a rest period lasts for not more than 10 minutes, and is counted as hours worked. It is provided to workers for every four hours worked; generally and if practicable, it should be in the middle of the 4-hour period. For example, if the person is working from 3.5 to 6 hours, then he or she is entitled to one 10-minute rest break. If he or she is working from 6 to 10 hours, then two 10-minute rest breaks are allotted.
However, not all employers are able to follow the regulations explicitly stated within the state laws. As it is, the laws against meal and rest period violations, as well as other labor standards, provide employers with costly consequences when they fail to comply with these regulations. A non-exempt worker is owed one additional hour of pay at the regular rate if the employer fails to give him or her a single meal period. The same applies when a rest break is not given.
Meal and rest period violations in California are just one of the reasons why a lot of employees file unclaimed wages against their employers, aside from the typical unpaid minimum and overtime wages. They either file their claims with the Office of the Labor Commissioner or with the help of a labor lawyer who specializes in labor-related claims.
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