A California employer must make it feasible for an employee to take a meal and rest break. An employer should take affirmative steps to make sure an employees work does not pile on during their rest breaks. In others words an employer must make sure that an employee is relieved of all work duties during their meal and rest breaks. Employees should be told when they can take meal periods. They should not be penalized for taking a meal or rest break. There should not be pressure to skip a meal or rest period.
A proactive California employer should have a clearly communicated meal and rest break policy and maintain written time records that record the beginning and end of every meal period. A meal break of 30 minutes must be provided by no later than the fifth hour of work unless it is waived by mutual consent and the employees entire work does not exceed six hours.
The employer must provide a second meal break of at least 30 minutes no later than the end of the 10th hour of work, unless waived and where the entire work. Does not exceed 12 hours and there was no waiver for the first meal period. The meal periods must be provided on this basis and not on the basis of rest breaks if an employee’s total daily work time is less than 3.5 hours no rest break is required.
Rest breaks: if an employees total daily work time is between 3.5 and six hours, a rest break of at least 10 minutes is required within the first four hours of work. Each additional four hours of work requires at least a 10 minute rest break.
In California an employer’s meal and rest break policy cannot be a passive policy that is announced in a handbook and then ignored. Employers must take affirmative steps to make sure that during meal and rest periods an employee is not working. An employer needs to make sure they seed all control over the employee. Anytime an employer can be accused of pressuring someone to work through a break, giving economic incentives to work through breaks, or in any way coercing someone to work through a meal or rest break, an employer makes itself vulnerable to a meal or rest break claim under California law.