Understanding California Meal & Rest Breaks

The regulations regarding meals and rest breaks for employees are important to understand for any business in California. There has been an increase in claims against employers who are not compliant with the laws in this area, and it’s a source for litigation. This can mean penalties, legal fees, and damage to the employer’s reputation.

At eqHR, we recommend that all companies perform a meal and rest break payroll audit every year. These annual audits may be conducted by your internal staff or by an independent firm. Conducting this type of audit allows you better oversight of the way that your company routinely manages employee time so that changes can be made when necessary. If your company does receive a meal or rest period penalty claim, we recommend an independent audit to confirm (or refute) violations. 

The meal and rest break employer penalties may seem minimal. Each violation is one hour of the employee’s pay. However, that amount can add up quickly if violations are found to be ongoing or include more than one employee. The statute of limitations also includes a look-back period of three full years, which can be costly for companies that fail to meet requirements on a regular basis.

What Are the California Meal and Rest Break Requirements?

By California law, employees who work more than five hours are entitled to a 30-minute meal break. Employees are also entitled to a 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked.

If an employee works more than 10 hours, they are entitled to a second 30-minute meal break during their shift. 

A California meal break waiver is possible for some employees when both the employee and the employer want to waive the meal break and the shift is six hours or less. 

There are some exceptions to this rule in specific cases. For instance, some workers cannot take breaks at an appointed time due to the nature of their job. Some trades may not be able to stop work during the middle of a process. In most cases, the rest break is scheduled for the middle of a four-hour period, and the lunch break is scheduled for no later than five hours into the workday.

Typical Meal and Rest Break Payroll Audit Process

At eqHR, we offer meal and rest break payroll audits to give our clients an accurate accounting of the way that their company is handling employee time and documentation. There can be a number of reasons that companies find this process beneficial:

  • When you’re concerned with missed meal breaks and late meal breaks. In the case where a client comes to us because they feel that their employees have been missing breaks or been taking breaks later than is recommended, we review the employee timecards and obtain any reports from the client’s time or attendance system. We then compare those findings to the employee’s pay statements to confirm if meal penalties were correctly paid or if a meal break waiver was completed.

At eqHR, our payroll specialists remain up to date with the ever-changing regulations in California. We maintain relationships with the largest payroll system providers. Our specialists are experienced with every type of spreadsheet and software program and also have a vast expertise in effective communication with your staff. 

Our staff provides excellent and prompt customer service, and we pride ourselves on our ability to be able to explain variances to employees and management in order to get to the root of any issue and answer your internal questions. We are detail-oriented and work well under pressure to be able to meet the tight deadlines and precise nature of payroll processing issues.

If you would like to discuss your company’s meal and rest break requirements or any facet of payroll and auditing, please contact us for more information.