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Timing of Meal Breaks in California

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  • Timing of Meal Breaks in California

    Our company has 7 1/2 work hour days. Of of our non-exempt employees wants to take her meal break at the end of the day. Is this legal to accommodate this request, or do meal breaks have to be taken in the middle of the day? What are the laws regarding the timing of a meal break. Note: We currently have 1 hour unpaid meal breaks.

  • #2
    Meal Breaks

    Mandatory meal breaks are governed by state law, with the exception of a few specialized job classifications. What state are you in?
    Lillian Connell

    Forum Moderator
    www.laborlawtalk.com

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    • #3
      We are in the state of California.
      Thank you

      Comment


      • #4
        California Meal Period

        More information on California's meal period regulations may be found at: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_MealPeriods.htm. Based on what I saw, there is no requirement, re: the time within the shift that the meal must be taken. On the other hand, you, as the employer, has the authority to schedule meal periods, so long as you are in compliance with the need to provide them.

        While I couldn't find anything that would prohibit a meal at the end of the day within the regulations, you may want to ask the California Division of Industrial Relations for a definite answer.
        Lillian Connell

        Forum Moderator
        www.laborlawtalk.com

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        • #5
          What a Response Should Be.

          How about something like this:

          You may consider coming to a mutually agreeable time when a meal break period is appropriate for you, the company, and the employee. Put yourself in the employee’s position and ask how long you would want to work without taking a break to eat a meal. This is a matter of health; keeping an employee healthy with fuel required for optimal brain performance should be a concern for any employer. Also, take into consideration adverse effects of not allowing an employee to consume food in a timely manner as to retain optimal blood sugar levels and to remain healthy, both physically and mentally, and the ramifications.

          I wonder why I never see a response such as this. It is always one side or the other. How about offering a solution that is amicable for both parties and is in an answer to a good conscience? Both parties can have a happy ending!

          “Bring together…not tear apart.”

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          • #6
            What about timing of breaks and lunches?

            I was wondering if there is a law that prohibits the employer to make their employees take their 30 min lunch too early? for example: I work an 8 hour shift- they give me my 15min break 3 hours after I start my shift and then make me take my 30 min lunch a half hour later- HALF my shift hasn't even passed yet and I have to take my 30 lunch with 4 and a half hours left to go after I have lunch. Is that LEGAL? I thought we were supposed to have a break every 2 hours?

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            • #7
              With regards to the origional question, meal breaks must be given no later than the end of the 5th hour of work.

              Secondly, there is no law or regulation with regard to how early in the workday a meal period may be given. There may be an opinion letter that addresses this concern, but I am not aware of one. However that is not to say that the dlse would not take a particular stance on this topic. You may wish to contact them.
              My intention is not to argue over who is wrong/right. I am here for the discussion and to learn and teach. If you dislike what I have to say or think I question you when I shouldn't, then by all means add me to your ignore list.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by everglo View Post
                I was wondering if there is a law that prohibits the employer to make their employees take their 30 min lunch too early?
                Your employer can schedule your meal periods whenever it wishes. However, as a general rule, an employer may not work an employee for a period of more than five hours without providing the employee with a meal period of not less than 30 minutes. Hence, if your employer schedules your meal too early in the shift (e.g., after only 2 hours of work), your employer must give you another period.

                Originally posted by everglo View Post
                I work an 8 hour shift- they give me my 15min break 3 hours after I start my shift and then make me take my 30 min lunch a half hour later- HALF my shift hasn't even passed yet and I have to take my 30 lunch with 4 and a half hours left to go after I have lunch. Is that LEGAL? I thought we were supposed to have a break every 2 hours?
                I see no problem with scheduling your lunch at the 3.5 - 4.0 hour mark in your shift. However, you are correct that the law mandates rest periods of 10 minutes every 4 hours (to be taken approximately at the 2 hour mark). If you are not being provided a rest break in the afternoon (after your lunch break when you still have 4.5 hours of work to go), I see that as problematic.
                Barry S. Phillips, CPA
                www.BarryPhillips.com

                IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: This response is intended to provide general information and written for educational purposes only. It does not establish a client relationship. This communication is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to any party any matters addressed herein.

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                • #9
                  Interesting interpretation there Barry. Do you have a reference showing that the dlse supports this interpretation? Just for my own records...

                  Now the problem I see with what you state is that you must be given a second meal period if the first one was too early. I can see two unpaid meal periods in an 8 hour day as problematic. Wouldn't a split shift situation arise?
                  My intention is not to argue over who is wrong/right. I am here for the discussion and to learn and teach. If you dislike what I have to say or think I question you when I shouldn't, then by all means add me to your ignore list.

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                  • #10
                    Villain: I can see two unpaid meal periods in an 8 hour day as problematic.[/B]?

                    I have no idea why you see this as problematic! The law specifically mandates it.

                    Villain: Wouldn't a split shift situation arise? NO!
                    Barry S. Phillips, CPA
                    www.BarryPhillips.com

                    IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: This response is intended to provide general information and written for educational purposes only. It does not establish a client relationship. This communication is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to any party any matters addressed herein.

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                    • #11
                      I see what you're saying as a huge loophole in the split shift premium pay. If an employer can make employees take several meal periods, then there would be very few times that a split shift has to be paid for. That's why I was asking where you got this interpretation from.
                      My intention is not to argue over who is wrong/right. I am here for the discussion and to learn and teach. If you dislike what I have to say or think I question you when I shouldn't, then by all means add me to your ignore list.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The exact language of the Wage Order is :
                        No employer shall employ any person for a work period of more than five (5) hours without a meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that when a work period of not more than six (6) hours will complete the day’s work the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee.
                        From this language, it would mean that a meal break must be provided after each 5 hours of work. If you worked 2 hours and took a break, you would be entitled to another break at 7 hours of work.

                        There is no real issue with split shift pay because the regulation defines split shift as:
                        “Split shift” means a work schedule, which is interrupted by non-paid non-working periods established by the employer, other than bona fide rest or meal periods.
                        While there has never been an precise definition for what a "bona fide" meal break is, I think any court would simply use common sense. That is, most people eat 3 meals a day, at fairly regular intervals. The time period is between 30 minutes and an hour -- perhaps a little more. Thus, if you have breaks in your work that don't correspond to times that a reasonable person would eat a meal, then it is not bona fide, and it would be a split shift. Similarly, if you have a 4 hour "meal break" it would not be considered bona fide and a split shift would result.

                        Of course, split shift pay rarely applies, so even if the schedule was found to be a split shift, only workers making at or near minimum wage would get any extra money out of it.
                        Michael Tracy
                        Attorney
                        http://www.laborlawradio.com

                        Disclaimer: The above response is a general statement of the law and should not be relied upon as legal advice. It only assumes the facts that are stated in the message. The above response does not serve to form an attorney-client relationship.

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                        • #13
                          While I understand split shift pay may not affect many, reporting time would. That is, if the second break at the 7th hour of the example you just gave is considered a split shift. And I think it would if several meal periods are mandated simply for the purposes of avoiding extra people on payroll when business is slow and thereby dragging out their workday.
                          My intention is not to argue over who is wrong/right. I am here for the discussion and to learn and teach. If you dislike what I have to say or think I question you when I shouldn't, then by all means add me to your ignore list.

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