California Employers Cannot Round Timekeeping for Meal Periods

Under California law, all non-exempt employees are entitled to meal breaks after working for a certain number of hours during the workday. If that meal time is not provided, the employer must pay the employee one hour of premium pay, even if the meal break was only 30 minutes. However, a question arose this year in a California court that asked whether an employer is allowed to use a neutral rounding practice for timekeeping, which is allowed under state law, for the purposes of tracking meal periods. The court unequivocally said no. If you believe that your rights have been violated at work, talk to an experienced California employment law attorney in your area today.

California Meal Break Law

California law requires that all non-exempt employees be entitled to a 30-minute meal break that begins no later than the end of the fifth hour of work and a second meal period no later than the tenth hour of work in a single workday. If an employee is not allowed an uninterrupted 30-minute meal break, that worker is entitled to one hour of premium pay. The California court has determined that it is the onus of the employer to ensure that their non-exempt employees receive their full meal break or else face civil consequences. Meal and rest break violations are one of the most common employment law claims made by workers every year in California.

Meal Breaks and Rounded Timekeeping

One timekeeping practice that is allowed under state law is the application of a neutral rounding practice. Generally, this practice is used for overall timekeeping of a worker’s day or workweek, and not meal or rest breaks. A recent lawsuit asked whether this legal practice could be used when keeping track of a non-exempt employee’s meal periods. The California court issued a unanimous opinion which stated that an employer is not allowed to use this practice for meal periods for a couple of reasons.

First, employers are required by law to ensure that their employees receive the full, statutorily required 30-minute meal period, upon which rounding practices could infringe. Second, the designation of a 30-minute meal break was purposeful to prevent even minor infringements on that time, and rounding to the nearest time increment is incompatible with that objective. Third, the court noted that any records showing non-compliant meal periods, which could occur with a neutral rounding timekeeping practice, automatically raises a rebuttable presumption of meal period violations under the law at the summary judgment stage. As such, neutral rounding practices cannot be applied to meal periods for employees.

Talk to a Lawyer Today

Do you believe that your employer has infringed upon your meal or rest periods at work? If so, you may have a claim for compensation against your employer. To learn more about your legal options, call or contact an experienced California employment law attorney in your area today to discuss your potential case.