California Employers Should Review Time-Keeping Practices for Meal Breaks

California employers are prohibited from rounding time-clock punches for employee meal periods, according to a recent ruling by the state’s high court.

Employees in California generally must receive a 30-minute unpaid meal break for every five hours they work.

The court said if time records show evidence of noncompliant meal periods, the court will assume a violation was committed unless the employer proves otherwise.

Employees in California must receive a 30-minute unpaid meal break for every five hours they work; they can waive their right to take a meal break only if they work no more than six hours. A second break must be provided after 10 hours but can be waived if the employee works no more than 12 hours and the first break was taken. In limited circumstances, an employee may be permitted to have an “on-duty” meal period, but the time must be paid at the worker’s regular rate of pay.

Employees are entitled to one hour of pay for each day a meal period rule wasn’t followed. So, if an employee doesn’t receive a full meal break, the employer will need to pay the employee a one-hour premium.