An employer in California cannot employ a worker without having a policy on employee lunch breaks of not less than 30 minutes. The meal break should not be paid. However, if the employee’s work prevents them from taking a meal break, the employer should permit a paid on-duty meal. Unless the employer relieves the employee of all duty during the 30-minute break, this can be considered as an on-duty meal period. Just like the off-duty meal period, the former should last for 30 minutes. If the employer fails to follow this, a wage and penalty citations may apply.
On Duty Meal Periods
An on-duty meal is the one that precludes an employee from taking a meal break due to the nature of their work. However, there must be an agreement done in writing by both the employee and the employer. The best part is that California’s employment laws favor employees. Even if your employer is providing an on-duty meal break; still, he/she may again violate the code if you don’t get a chance to have your lunch while on duty. If your employer fails to obey these rules, some penalties apply. Again, if you don’t understand the meal breaks, it’s always advisable to talk to an experienced lawyer who deals with such issues. The on-duty meal periods are permitted only if:
- You agree to stay on duty during your meal break, which should be done in writing. If you decide to revoke the agreement, again, this should be done in writing.
- The kind of duty you perform precludes you from getting relief from all of your duties. For instance, if you’re a customer service representative, you may be required to attend to the customers even during the lunch break.
Penalties For Breaking California Meal Break Rules
If you have the right to waive your meal break, your employer should ensure that this happens occasionally. Meaning, it does not occur daily. It’s one of the few exceptions under the California meal break law. If your employer is reluctant to comply with the California meal rules, he/she should face the necessary legal penalties. Still, your employer may owe you compensation if he/she fails to make sure you are complying with the breaks under the set policy at your workplace. Failure to do this, the following consequences may apply:
- Restitution to every employee who may have missed the lunch breaks
- Fines in case of California labor laws violation
- Criminal charges if the violations are serious
If you have any questions regarding whether your employer has violated any law, speak to an experienced lawyer in California. Again, if you feel your employer is overlooking your on-duty meal breaks, make sure to contact a labor and employment lawyer to get advice. Your lawyer will guide you to having a successful wage and hour lawsuit. And for each lunch break that was denied to you, you may receive an hour’s pay at your regular rate.