If your employer fails to provide you with a rest period and a meal period, this can result in a rest and meal period violations lawsuit under California law.
California Meal Break Law
California law requires employers to provide non-exempt workers the opportunity to take a thirty minute meal break, when the employee will work in excess of 5 hours. During this thirty minute meal period, the worker should be relieved of all work duties. When a company does not offer a thirty minute meal break, the worker is entitled to one hour of pay at their standard rate of pay. Since employers rarely, if ever, provide employees with such pay in the event of a missed meal break, these amounts due are generally recovered through a rest and meal period violations lawsuit.
Exceptions to the Rest and Meal Period Requirement
However, there are some exclusions to this thirty minute meal period requirement. For example, “exempt” staff members do not have to be given an opportunity for a thirty minute, uninterrupted meal break. The issue of whether or not an employee is in fact exempt is quite complicated, and it is generally advisable to consult with an attorney to see if this exemption should actually apply in your case. Another exemption exists for employees who will work less than six hours in a given shift. In the case when the working day is under 6 hours, the worker may agree to waive the meal break. Additionally, employees who are part of a union, or otherwise working under a collective bargaining agreement are no always entitled to thirty minute meal breaks.
In some instances, “on duty” meal periods are allowed if the type of work performed by the employee prevents the employee from being completely relieved of job duties. Some examples of such job duties include security guards, who are charged with guarding remote locations where it is impractical for the guard to leave the post unmanned for thirty minutes to take a break. This exemption can be quite complicated, so it is best to consult with a California employment attorney to see if this exemption in fact applies to your situation.