So as not to incur meal period violations, under California (wage and hour) labor law, employers are required to provide all non-exempt employees a thirty minute unpaid meal break per eight hour shift, and provide a second thirty minute meal break if the employee works more than ten hours. These meal breaks can be waived under the following conditions: 1) there is a mutual written agreement between the employee and employer, and 2) If the employee does not work more than six hours, the first 30 minute meal period can be waived, and the second meal period can be waived as long as the employee did not waive the first meal period. The meal break must be at least thirty uninterrupted minutes. The employer cannot require or knowingly permit an employee to “work through” his/ her lunches. The employee must be relieved of all work duties during the meal period, and be permitted to leave the premises for the full duration of the meal break. There are very limited circumstances in which an “on-duty” lunch is permitted, but it requires an essential need on the employer’s part that is directly related to the nature of the work performed, cannot be accommodated in any other way, and the burden is on the employer to prove that such a need exists. In addition, the meal period must be compensated if the employee is required to be on-call, even if the employee is relieved of all actual duties during the meal period.
VIOLATIONS OF MEAL BREAK LAWS
If an employer violates this meal break law, the employee is entitled to a penalty of one hour’s worth of pay for every day a meal period was not provided. Meal period violations often trigger overtime claims as well, because if an employee works through her lunch or is provided less than thirty minutes, a full-time employee will most likely go over the eight hour mark. For non-exempt employees, overtime is required for any work beyond eight hours in one day and forty hours in one week.
Furthermore, if an employee does not receive meal breaks and complains, and then suffers adverse consequences from the employer as a result, the employee may have a separate retaliation claim against the employer, for which compensatory and punitive damages may be available.
YOU MAY BE ENTITLED TO DAMAGES
If you have not received meal breaks from your employer and you work in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Ukiah, or anywhere in Sonoma County, Mendocino County or Lake County and feel that you you have been a victim of meal break violations you may qualify for damages or remedies that may be awarded in a possible unpaid overtime class action or lawsuit, or a complaint filed with an administrative agency, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (generally referred to as “the labor board”). Please contact a meal break violations law attorney at Beck Law P.C. to discuss your legal options to enable you to recover the overtime wages you are duly owed.