Missed meal and rest break premium pay may give rise to waiting time and wage statement penalties.
The California Supreme Court, in Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc. (2022) 13 Cal. 5th 93, overturned an appellate court ruling that was favorable to employers, and held that unpaid meal and rest break premium pay is a wage that must be reported on employee wage statements (pay stubs) and paid at the time that final wages are due at separation of employment.
California employers are required to authorize and permit uninterrupted meal and rest breaks to non-exempt employees at legally-required times and durations. If an employer does not abide by these rules, the employer must pay the employee one hour’s pay at the employee’s regular rate of pay for any day in which there was a violation (“premium pay”) (the maximum is one hour’s pay for each type of violation).
Under the Naranjo holding, employers who do not authorize and permit employees to take timely and complete meal and rest periods and do not pay the “premium pay” are also liable for additional penalties arising from the resulting inaccurate wage statements and failure to pay all wages due at the end of employment, subject to defenses generally available under those statutes.
So – take steps to lessen your exposure to meal and rest break claims. Be sure that you are providing required breaks, that your written policies reflect the law and best practices, and that your supervisors and employees are properly trained. You should investigate the reasons if employees are not taking breaks and pay premium pay if work conditions or instructions prevented them from taking their breaks. Also, you should discipline employees who fail to abide by meal and rest break policies. Employers who are proactive in these areas will have a stronger shield if claims are made against them.
Related practice team: Labor and Employment