Nonexempt employees are entitled to one 30-minute meal break for a shift longer than five hours and a second 30-minute meal break for a shift longer than ten hours. Nonexempt employees are entitled to a ten-minute rest break for every four-hour shift they work. California workers should be aware of their rights in the workplace and actively seek to protect themselves when an employer violates labor law.
What Happens When an Employee Isn't Given a Meal Break or Rest Period?
If a California employer fails to provide an employee with a proper meal or rest period (as required by law), the employer must pay the employee an additional hour of pay. This extra pay is commonly referred to as "premium pay." Premium constitutes wages and must be reported on the itemized wage statement. Employers are also required to pay any necessary premium pay for missed meal breaks and rest periods by the statutory deadline if an employee separates from their job, so premium pay for missed meal and rest periods is subject to waiting time penalties under Labor Code section 203. If a California employer does not timely pay an employee premium pay following termination of employment, they are violating California labor law.
Everything Employees Should Know About Meal Breaks & Rest Periods in California
Knowing the law is the first step toward protecting yourself from employment law violations; the subsequent step is recognizing violations when they occur and taking action to protect your rights in the workplace. Consider these steps as a guideline if you suspect your employer is violating labor law by failing to comply with meal break and rest period-related statutes.
- If you notice a discrepancy on your wage statement, report it immediately to your boss or human resources. It's best to assume it's an honest mistake and request a correction directly. Any missed wages should be provided to you in your next check (or sooner).
- Keep a record if you have noticed discrepancies on your wage statement or you suspect you are not being paid for all hours worked and premium pay from missed meal breaks and rest periods. Make a note of when you arrive at work, when you leave, your breaks, and your meal periods.
- Approach a co-worker to see if the problem is a standard practice or a one-time mistake. In many cases, if one employee is underpaid, there are others. Find out if others are in the same situation as you; you'll usually get more attention from your boss and the legal system if the situation escalates to court.
- Talk to your boss or supervisor to request the problem be fixed as soon as possible.
- If your employer does not respond to your request for a solution, contact an attorney, and file a complaint. When your employer does not pay you for the hours you worked, you can sue them for violating the FLSA and state wage and hour laws (either individually or as a class action along with co-workers in similar situations).
If you need to discuss filing a California class action lawsuit or have questions about California labor law violations, contact Moss Bollinger, Sherman Oaks, California personal injury attorney. He's dedicated to protecting and asserting the rights of his clients. Call 866-942-7974 today for a free consultation, or contact us online.