Can The Meal Periods Be Automatically Deducted From Payroll?

While there is no mandatory rule to provide lunch breaks, most of the company does this to maintain productivity or due to custom. California is an exception. The California state law, which is more generous than federal law requires that every employer provide meal and rest breaks that can be paid or unpaid. For instance, if you’re working on your meal break, you must be paid, and of course, this has to be agreed upon in writing. However, for bona fide meal breaks, an employee cannot be entitled to payment. Most of the employers in California have embraced providing top employee lunch breaks. Nevertheless, the issue of accounting for the lunch breaks becomes prickly, especially for those who work during the break.

Is It Legal To Deduct Lunch Break Automatically?

This is a contentious issue because sometimes employees forget to clock out for the lunch break, which could lead to an increased amount in their paycheck. Others may fail to clock back after return, and this may bring up inaccurate payroll. This means that some workers may be underpaid, while others may be overpaid. Getting the accurate time spent on breaks requires more than the employee clock out and clock back in. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, automatic deductions are lawful. However, this may be the onset of a lawsuit if you’re working during your meal periods and are not being paid. Your employer can avoid this risky business if he/she:

  • Have a method set where employees can cancel auto-deductions for the time worked during lunch break
  • Have the employees trained about the auto-deduction policy
  • Make sure the lunch breaks have minimal interruptions where applicable.

Rather than having the employee clock in and out for their paid lunch break, an employer may automatically deduct the time from each worker’s record. While employers must ensure employees understand this process, the employee must follow the process. This is to ensure that if there arises any conflict that needs legal attention, the employee will be safe such as to hold the employer accountable. Companies that have failed to adhere to accurate auto deductions have had significant class action lawsuits. If you have issues with your lunch breaks, you need to consult an experienced attorney in California who is familiar with labor laws.

Speak With An Experienced Attorney

Your employer should ensure to make the lunch breaks available, but at no point should they pressurize you to skip the lunch breaks. However, if you have a written agreement due to the nature of your job and not getting paid, your employer could be skirting the overtime wage requirement and thus violating the law. A respite from your desk is essential for your body’s health. Again, don’t make a habit of eating alone at your desk, as this may increase the burnout rate or a feeling of loneliness. Detaching from your job can positively affect your morale and help you become productive and efficient. If your employer cannot afford you to leave your posts, he/she may be violating the law and should face the consequences.

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