They say the government is overly involved in our lives. When it comes to lunch, the fact that this is true is a blessing.
Although California employers do not have to pay employees for meal breaks, California’s Labor Code Section 512 sets forth an employer’s obligations when it comes to giving lunch breaks to their employees. All employees working more than five (5) consecutive hours are entitled to a completely work-free thirty (30) minute lunch break. If you work more than six (6) consecutive hours, this requirement cannot typically be waived by the employee.
In addition, if an employee works more than ten (10) hours in a day, they are entitled to a second 30-minute meal break. An employer’s failure to afford these mandatory breaks to employees, additional payments to the tune of payment at the employee’s regular rate or even more, in certain circumstances, must be made.
Finally, employers likely do have to pay for an employee’s meal breaks if the job requires said employee to remain on duty. Situations such as this may include front desk security who need to let people into the building, custodial staff, and other such persons. Plus, although an employer is permitted to require employees to remain on-site during lunch, in such cases, employees are required to be compensated.
So what do you do if you are forced to work through these mandatory breaks?
Attorneys familiar with those victimized by an Unpaid Lunch Break are available for consultation and, if necessary, the filing of a claim or lawsuit. Although it may make you uneasy about confronting the employer that pays you the monies you need for food, housing, clothing, etc., the laws are on your side. Use them.
Indeed, if an employer terminates you for asserting your legally-mandated rights, the employer will be subject to a wrongful termination lawsuit. If the motivation for the firing violates public policy, such as protecting workers’ rights, such a lawsuit is more than likely to result in a positive outcome for the wrongfully-terminated employee.
Many attorneys label themselves as “Labor Law” attorneys. However, issues such as Unpaid Lunch Break are very statute-specific and, as such, require attorneys that specialize in this area. When you interview an attorney to assist with your claim, be sure that you feel comfortable with their attentiveness to your issues, knowledge of the issues, ability to present the arguments to a board or judge or jury, and their overall demeanor. Once you feel comfortable, fight for your rights—California designed their laws so you can.