By Jennifer Jacobus, PHRca, SDEA Director of HR Services
Employers know by now that if an employee is not provided with a duty-free meal and/or rest period, in any give day (as required by California law) that they owe the employee premium pay of one hours’ wages for each missed meal and/or rest period a day, up to two hours.
In order to comply with the duty-free meal and rest period requirement, the employer must make available a minimum 30-minute meal period for every five hours of work and a minimum 10-minute rest period for every four hours of work. “Duty free” means that the employee is free of all work assignments and may leave the worksite if they choose. If an employer, or employer representative, i.e, supervisor or manager, interrupts an employee’s meal or rest period, does not provide a meal or rest period or if the employee returns to work before taking their full 30-minute meal period, then the premium is owed.
Last month, the California Supreme concluded that meal and rest break premiums are “wages” that must be reported on wage statements (in California) and paid according to final paycheck laws when an employee terminates. The Court confirmed that employers who fail to pay necessary missed break premiums are exposed to potential waiting time penalties under Labor Code section 203 and wage statement penalties under Labor Code section 226.
Employers should ensure that when missed break premiums are paid, they are listed on the employees’ wage statements and included in an employee’s final paycheck, if not previously paid.
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