Debunking California Meal and Rest Break Myths

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California law requires employers to provide a meal break for every five hours worked. If the employer does not provide these breaks, employees are entitled to California meal and rest break premiums.

On the other hand, the law does not require the employer to provide any additional breaks, such as rest or other breaks.  If the employer offers additional breaks, the law requires that they be taken at specific times and for a specific duration.

What are Rest and Meal Period Laws?

Rest and meal period laws require employers in California to provide a certain amount of break time to employees who must be relieved of all work duties. Employers must also provide employees with a meal break of at least 30 minutes if the employee works more than five hours a day.

The break time and meal break requirements ensure that workers have the opportunity to take a rest or eat a meal during their shift. While both types of breaks are essential, meal breaks are especially crucial, as they allow employees to step away from their workstations and refuel.

But there are many myths surrounding California’s meal and rest break laws. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.

Myth: Employers can provide meal periods at any point in the shift

Fact:  Employers must provide a first meal period after the fifth hour of work and a second meal period at the end of an employee’s tenth hour of work.

Employees are only allowed to take their break after the fifth hour of work. This is stated in the California Labor Code section 512. If employers provide meal periods at any other point, they are not compliant with the law.

Myth: Employers can “round up” break times

Fact:  Meal breaks and rest periods are now more strictly regulated, which disallows rounding time for meal breaks. The court ruled that workers should receive a 30-minute meal break minimum, which means a 28-minute or 29-minute break is not allowed anymore.

Employers in California are no longer allowed to round time for meal breaks. A recent court ruling determined that workers require a 30-minute meal break minimum. If you are an employer in California, you need to be aware of this new ruling and make sure that you are not rounding time for meal breaks. Doing so could result in penalties and fines.

Myth: Informing employees of their break times is enough to show compliance; if they end up working anyway, we’re not liable

Fact: Some employers provide employees with a break but may still require that they stay on call in an emergency. In this case, the employee is still considered on their break and should not be required to work. If the employee is asked to work during their break, they are entitled to California meal and rest break premiums that they worked.

The same is true if an employee is given a break but is not relieved of their duties. For example, if an employee is allowed to take a 10-minute smoke break but is still required to answer the phone or help customers, they may be entitled to compensation for that time.

Myth: The law doesn’t cover temps and independent contractors

Fact: Temp workers in California are entitled to the same meal and rest breaks as regular employees. If your employer is not providing you with the required break, you may be able to file a compensation claim.

Temp workers in California are entitled to the same meal and rest breaks as regular employees. If your employer is not providing you with the required break, you may be entitled to California meal and rest break premiums.

It is important to know your rights as an employee and to not be afraid to speak up if you feel like they are being violated. If you suspect that your employer is not complying with California meal and rest break laws, you should consult the attorneys at Haffner Law to discuss your options.


Understanding Class-Action Lawsuits for Meal and Rest Breaks

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Under California’s labor code, non-exempt workers are entitled to a 10-minute paid rest break for every four hours they work and an unpaid 30-minute meal break for every five hours worked. During these periods, employees must be relieved from all types of work duties.

Noncompliance with these guidelines will result in employers paying the employee one additional hour of pay at the regular rate of compensation for each workday that the meal/rest break rule was violated. Additionally, on top of the base salary, the premiums must include the value of nondiscretionary pay, such as commissions and incentives.

Can You Sue Your Employer for Violating Meal/Rest Break Regulations?

The answer is yes, you can. Not providing workers with mandatory rest and meal breaks or requiring them to work during the breaks can be grounds for filing a class-action lawsuit. As with any wage and hour case, the statute of limitations for meal/rest break violations is three years from the most recent date the violation occurred.

First, let’s define a class-action lawsuit. Simply put, it is a type of lawsuit that involves a large group of employees who have the same complaint against their employer. When they unite to file a single lawsuit, they are called a “class.”

Requirements for Initiating a Class-Action

To be certified as a class, you and your colleagues must meet the following four criteria:

  1. Numerosity: The party should be great in number, although there is no minimum number of plaintiffs to meet this requirement.
  2. Impracticability: The class must be so numerous that the union of all members is impracticable.
  3. Commonality: The class must share the same complaints and grievances, and there should be questions of law or fact common to all members of the group.

How Class Action Lawsuits Benefit Workers With Meal/Rest Break Cases

There are multiple benefits to initiating a class action as opposed to filing an individual lawsuit against your employer. First, the overall cost of the lawsuit can be expensive. With more members on board, you cut costs on legal fees. This also makes it financially feasible for multiple plaintiffs to seek relief for small amounts.

Second, a class action lawsuit is typically decided by a single judge. This means it may take up less time compared to filing individual lawsuits that involve multiple judges.

Lastly, class action lawsuits for meal/rest breaks may negatively impact an employer’s economic and financial standing. To mitigate this risk, the employer might be more inclined to agree to a settlement. This way, employees regain their unpaid wages without having to spend a lot of money on bringing a suit to court.

Get Representation from an Experienced Wage and Hour Class Action Attorney

If your employer has violated your rights to meal or rest breaks, reach out to Haffner Law today. Our seasoned wage and hour class lawyers will provide you with diligent class action representation and legal counseling. We will leave no stone unturned to help ensure the best possible outcome for your case.

Get in touch with our firm today at 1-844-HAFFNER (423-3637) to schedule a free consultation or learn more about our services.


Can I Sue My Employer for Violating Meal and Rest Break Laws?

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Research shows that over 90% of workers in North America feel that taking meal breaks helps them feel refreshed and prepared to return to work. Apart from helping workers destress and recharge for the rest of the workday, meal and rest breaks also improve overall job satisfaction.

While federal law does not require employers to provide break periods, several states, including California, have separate guidelines for meal and rest breaks. Just recently, the California Supreme Court revisited the methodology for calculating meal and rest break premiums for non-exempt workers.

Non-exempt employees include “persons employed in professional, clerical, technical, mechanical, and similar occupations whether compensated on a commission, time, piece rate, or other bases.” They are protected by federal and California labor laws and are entitled to minimum wage, required rest periods, and meal breaks.

California meal break requirements

  • Under Labor Code 512, employees who work five hours a day must be given an unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes.
  • Employees who are working more than 10 hours a day are also eligible for a second 30-minute meal break.
  • A meal break may be waived provided that the employee doesn’t work more than 6 hours in a shift.
  • Workers are allowed to spend meal breaks outside of work premises.

California rest break guidelines

  • Non-exempt employees are entitled to a 10-minute paid and uninterrupted rest break for every four hours that they work.
  • The rest period may not be required for employees that clock in only 3 ½ hours per day.
  • Your employer may not require you to remain on work premises during rest breaks.
  • Workers may skip rest breaks provided that the employer did not coerce or persuade them to.

For a lawful meal or rest break, the employer must relieve the worker of all responsibilities and cease control of employee activities. Meal and rest breaks must be taken separately and cannot be combined. It is unlawful for an employer to provide a 1-hour period or less for both meal and rest breaks.

Can I take legal action against employers who violate rest break guidelines?

Yes, you can hold them accountable. Under California state law, employers who violate meal or rest break laws are required to provide their workers with “premium pay.” Employees are legally entitled to one additional hour of wages at their regular rate of compensation for each workday that the meal or rest period is denied.

Apart from the base hourly wages, other nondiscretionary payments like incentives, commissions, bonuses, and shift differentials must also be taken into account when calculating premium pay.

Can exempt salaried workers also sue employers for no meal or rest breaks?

It depends. There are several kinds of exemptions within California labor laws. For instance, supervisors may fall under the executive exemption. In this case, it’s best to consult with a labor law attorney to understand your workplace rights or determine whether you’re misclassified by your employer.

Partner with skilled class-action lawyers

Employers can be held liable for failing to comply with rest period laws. At Haffner Law, we help workers file class-action lawsuits against unjust employers in California. Schedule a free consultation now and get the compensation you deserve.

Common Labor Violations Faced by Warehousing Workers

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In 2019, some 1,500 employees filed a class action against Phoenix Warehouse of California for alleged labor violations committed between 2009 and 2016. The company had initially faced a labor lawsuit in 2015 when employees claimed that the company refused employees their overtime pay. As more complaints emerged against Phoenix Warehouse of California, the labor attorneys who represented multiple victims were able to elevate the case to a class action.

This one case gives us many examples of labor violations in Los Angeles. In this article, we’ll discuss the difficulties that workers in warehousing and storage encounter and the common labor violations their employers commit.

Working Conditions in the Warehouse and Storage Sector

Working in the warehousing and storage sector is physically demanding. It entails long working hours and minimum to average hourly wages. It is also a large workforce: boosted by the demands of the transportation and logistics sector, employed workers in the warehousing sector rose by 5.99 percent from 2018 to 2019, bringing the number to 1.14 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Data USA pegs the average annual salary of a full-time employee at $36,751 or roughly $15-17 per hour in a six-day workweek.

In a nutshell, the industry has hundreds of thousands of workers who are working seven hours a day, six days a week at minimum wage and benefits. It takes little for employers to tip over to the edge and commit labor violations that can have a massive impact on the well-being of warehouse workers.

Common Labor Violations in LA Warehousing and Storage

Going back to the class action against Phoenix Warehouse of California, the workers’ testimonials against the company were damaging: they allegedly made employees work for eight to 12 hours a day, did not allow meal and rest breaks, and did not pay overtime wages. One manager also faced sexual harassment allegations for making sexual advances towards a female employee in exchange for her daily wage.

The employees, who were mostly Latinos who could only speak Spanish, alleged that the company threatened them with deportation if they complained about their abysmal work conditions.

This case is representative of the problems that warehouse workers face across the state:

  • Wage theft – Employers who refuse to pay the minimum hourly wage can be charged with wage theft. The minimum wage in California is $13-14 per hour, depending on the number of workers in a company. The rate is higher in some cities and counties like Los Angeles County, Menlo Park, and Fremont (at $15 per hour)
  • Violations against meal breaks– California requires employers to grant a 30-minute meal break to employees working for five hours or more, and a second 30-minute meal break to employees working for over 10 hours. If these breaks aren’t possible, employers must give one hour’s worth of additional pay.
  • Violations against rest breaks – California workers are entitled to 10 consecutive minutes of rest for every 4 hours of work. Employers should also provide employees with suitable rooms for resting.
  • Forced overtime – It is illegal for employers to require workers to render work before they officially clock in for their shift or after they’ve clocked out for the day. They’re also not allowed to make workers report for more than six days every seven days.

Protect Yourself from Labor Violations in California

All workers have a right to just and fair working conditions regardless of their pay grade. Warehouse workers are just as entitled to charge their employers with labor violations as highly-paid, white-collar professionals. If you or someone you know is currently facing the problems discussed above or something similar, we encourage you to get in touch with Haffner Law as soon as possible.

We have experienced employment attorneys who can help employees file a case or class actions against non-compliant employers. We also help clients get the compensation they deserve for the rights violations they had to endure.

Hold your employer accountable and get the compensation you deserve. Talk to Haffner Law today.

(This is an attorney advertisement by Joshua Haffner)