California Labor Rules to Ignore at Your Own Peril – 9th Rule: Lunch Breaks are Really Lunch Breaks

This is an ongoing series looking at the nine California Labor Rules to Ignore at Your Own Peril. Today we’ll discuss Lunch Breaks are Really Lunch Breaks.

In California, a 30 minute lunch period must be provided by the start of the fifth hour of work, no exceptions. Companies are subject to penalties if the break begins even a minute beyond the fifth hour of work, and don’t let your more workaholic staff members try to talk you out of it by signing some kind of waiver, either — they are also not allowed.

The meal break must be taken in full (no sneaking back early), and it has to be away from the work area in order to count. In other words, no scarfing down a burger while hunched over the keyboard, trying to avoid answering the phone with a full mouth. While your IT department will no doubt celebrate this rule, which could very well cut down their keyboard-replacement budget, staff who are accustomed to eating at their desks may be sorely disappointed.

If you were inadvertently overlooking this rule, be aware of any resistance to it, as the employer is liable for any violations. If an employee does volunteer to waive the requirement, consider it an opportunity to impress upon them how inflexible the requirements are, and to reinforce the importance of their compliance.

Integrating a time-and-attendance system into in-house payroll can all but eliminate well-intentioned violations of this law. Work stations can be disabled during the break period, which in concert with consistent coaching should shift the organization to a culture of compliance.

Curious if there are other California labor rules that you may be ignoring? Wondering if you’re following all of the laws in another locale where you do business? Pacific Data Marketing can help. Contact us to see how well your knowledge of labor laws is serving you, and to learn how we can support your human resource processes.

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