Tuesday, July 05, 2011

California Labor Laws and your Lunch Hour

In each state, there are labor laws in place that protect both employers and employees and help to create a safe and fair work environment. Federal and state labor law posters are required to be displayed in all workplaces, which state the rights and protections afforded employees. These labor law posters cover basic protections such as wages, anti-discrimination policy and worker’s compensation. But not all laws are covered on California labor law poster. You have to dig a little deeper to understand all the rights that are covered, some of which may actually be in employee handbooks, while others are unspoken, but generally understood.

In the state of California, employers cannot legally work employees for more than five hours without providing a rest or break period for meals for at least thirty minutes. (If an employee works only a six hour shift, they may agree to waive their right for a meal break.) For employees working more than ten hours, two meal breaks must be provided (thirty minutes each). (If an employee works a twelve hour shift, they may agree to waive their right for a second meal break.)

There are several types of meal breaks: an on-duty meal break and an off duty meal break. An on-duty meal break means that the nature of the work dictates that the employee cannot leave. For example, if the employee is the only one on staff at the time, such as a night security guard, then the meal break would be considered on-duty. This also means that the employee must receive full compensation for the time period of the break. An off duty meal break means that the employee has no working duties during that time, and is not paid.

If an employer fails to provide a meal break, then they must in turn provide one hour of additional pay to those employees. (If the employer fails to provide an extra hour of pay, a wage claim may be filed with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). A three year statute of limitations does apply.) If employees are required to eat on premise, a suitable meal place must be provided. Even in construction and mining sites, employers must provide suitable clean water, soap and hand towels.

In addition to lunch or meal breaks, employers must also provide rest or break periods, and in applicable cases, a location where new mothers can breastfeed. Additional information about these labor laws is available through the Department of Labor or the DLSE.

1 comment:

George E. Bourguignon, Jr. Attorney at Law said...

It appears that generally the employee's cannot voluntarily waive their right to a break. So, essentially, an employer must force an employee to take a break even when they don't want to. Do I have that right?