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Employment Law: Meal and Rest Breaks, a Brief Overview

Friday, December 02, 2016

California employment law sets forth the circumstances under which employers must provide meal and rest breaks to employees and under what circumstances those breaks must be paid.

Employees must be given at least a ten minute paid rest break for every four hours, "or major fraction thereof", of work. Anything over two hours is considered a major fraction of four. Employees who work at least six hours, but not more than ten, are entitled to a second paid rest break.

For meals, an employer must provide at least a thirty-minute break to an employee once the employee has worked five hours. This meal break need not be paid, but the employee must be relieved of all work duties during that time and must be free to leave the employer's premises. If an employee works six hours or less a day, the employee can waive, or give up, the right to a meal break if the employer agrees.

An employee who works ten or more hours in a day is entitled to a second unpaid meal break of at least thirty minutes. The break must be provided no later than the end of the tenth hour of work. If not working more than twelve hours in a day, an employee may, with employer consent, waive the second meal break. The employee may not waive both meal breaks in one day, however.

If the nature of the work is such that it prevents an employee from taking a break from all duties, employers must provide a paid, on-duty meal period, compensated at the employee's regular rate of pay. The employee and employer must agree, in writing, to on-duty meal breaks. The employee is free to revoke the agreement, in writing, at any time.

If an employer fails to provide legally required breaks, or if an employer fails to pay for those breaks when it is legally required to do so, it faces penalties and the payment of back wages to the wronged employee. To learn more, contact us.




Court Finds Meal and Rest Period Compensation is a Wage

Monday, April 15, 2013

In a March 7, 2013 decision in the case of Abad v. General Nutrition Systems Inc. U.S. District Court Case No. 8:09-CV-00190-JVC-RNB, U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna ruled that Meal and Rest Period Compensation is a Wage. The Plaintiffs in that matter are represented by Jeffrey Spencer of the Spencer Law Firm.

Defendant GNC filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that in light of the California Supreme Court decision Kirby v. Immoos Fire Protection, Inc., 53 Cal.4th 1244, (2012) and the U.S. District Court Decision Jones v. Spherion Staffing LLC, LA CV11-06462 JAK, 2012 WL 3264081 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 7, 2012) meal and rest compensation was a penalty, not a wage and could not be the basis of a claim for waiting time penalties under California Labor Code §§201-203or for inaccurate wage statements under California Labor Code §226.

The Court rejected GNC’s reasoning and declined to follow Jones v. Spherion Staffing LLC. The Court found that the holding in Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., 40 Cal. 4th 1094, (2007) that the additional hour of wages owed for violation of California Labor Code §226.7 (failure to provide meal and rest periods) is a wage and not a penalty is controlling. Therefore Plaintiffs can bring claims for waiting time penalties and inaccurate wage statements based upon GNC’s failure to pay meal and rest compensation and its failure to include meal and rest compensation in the plaintiff’s wage statements. A copy of the complete order is available here:  

Abad v. GNC Abad v. GNC (59 KB)




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