California’s rest break law is different than Federal law, and underwent major changes due to a recent California Supreme Court case. Our rest break lawyers have obtained significant rest break case results including won arbitrations, trials, and court approved class action settlements for rest break violations. Each missed rest breaks may be worth an hour of pay, create paystub violations worth $100 a paystub, and PAGA penalties entitling the employee to $50-$100 per pay period. The damages add up fast!
Rather than trying to decipher the complexities of California rest break law please call 877-525-0700 so our wage lawyers can evaluate whether you and/or a large group of your workers were subjected to rest break violations.
Basic concepts of California rest break law include:
Nonexempt employees are entitled to rest breaks. Nonexempt might mean you are paid by the hour, but not necessarily. Nonexempt employees include workers with supervisory or managerial job titles if they earn less than twice California minimum wage. Employees may be nonexempt even if they earn twice minimum wage, but neither regularly supervise two or more full-time employees or otherwise engage in supervisory or managerial work where they have independent discretion 51% of the time.
Rest Breaks must be uninterrupted for 10 minutes. A late 2016 California Supreme Court decision clarified rest breaks must be uninterrupted. This means the employee must be relieved of all duty during their rest break. During a valid rest break the employee should not be required to answer calls, or look after the employer’s property.
Employers cannot prevent entitled employees to rest breaks. Employers are not required to police the workplace to make sure employees take rest breaks. However, employers cannot discourage, prevent, or make the taking of rest breaks impossible. In 2016 firm founder, Karl Gerber won an arbitration that led to a $400,000 recovery against an employer who knew it prevented, discouraged, and made impossible the taking of rest breaks.
Employees do not have to take their rest breaks. Presuming the employer has not prevented, discouraged, or made the taking of rest breaks impossible they are not liable if an employee chooses not to take a rest break. Likewise, employers are not legally liable when employees decide to take rest breaks of less than 10 minutes.
Rest Breaks can be taken in a variety of places. If an employee wishes and their employer allows it rest breaks may be taken at the employee’s usual work location whether it is a desk, truck, or warehouse. Rest breaks can also be taken off premises.
If you have questions about at what point in your shift rest breaks must be taken, please call our rest break lawyers at 1-877-525-0700 to see if you have a case. We do not advise employees to make their own calculations about when rest breaks are due to them based upon when they started their shift and when their meal break might be. Moreover, it is very dangerous for employees make incorrect assertions of the law to their employers.
Failure to allow eligible employees to take their daily rest breaks results in potentially two penalties a day. California Labor Code Section 226.7 requires an employer to pay an employee one hour of pay for every missed rest break. An important California Supreme Court decision suggests employees may be entitled to up to two hours of a pay a day for missed rest breaks. If an employee also missed a meal break they are still entitled to only two hours of pay for the day. The Supreme Court suggested an employee can either receive two hours of pay for one missed meal break and one rest break.
For purposes of determining how far back an employee can go for rest break violations the California Supreme Court has determined missed rest break penalties are wages so the employee can go back four years. However, other penalties associated with unpaid wages However, California Labor Code Section 226 and PAGA (Private Attorney General) penalties may exist if the employer was denied meal or rest breaks.
In 2016 our law firm achieved the following significant results in cases involving rest break violations:
$800,000 class action settlement for a small class of emergency service workers
$400,000 post-arbitration result when rest breaks were discouraged, prevented, or made impossible for 4 actual plaintiffs and then a PAGA settlement of $50,000 occurred