Workers are often told that they need to take specific meal breaks and rest breaks. However, even though they are informed of these breaks, they are not always given the freedom to do so. Some employers will beg, manipulate, and finagle employees into skipping their meal breaks, and they will not provide any compensation for doing so. This is a common trouble and many employees do not know how to deal with it. They fear losing their jobs or being docked pay if they refuse. It is important that you understand the labor laws and what rights you have as a worker. If you wish to file a lawsuit against your employer citing meal break violations, you can contact our law firm, the California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group, for assistance.
California Meal Break Laws
In California, non-exempt workers have many rights regarding meal breaks and rest periods. A rest period is a paid amount of time that is offered in 15 minute increments per 3.5 hours worked. Generally, employees are granted 2 separate 15 minute rest periods per day.
Meal breaks, on the other hand, are not paid. They also do not require the worker to participate in nay work duties, such as staying on call or even remaining on the premises. A meal break is defined as a break in which:
- The employee is relieved of all job duties and responsibilities
- The employer surrenders all control over the employee’s activities
- The employer permits the employee a reasonable opportunity and chance to partake in an uninterrupted 30 minute meal break
- The employee is not discouraged from taking the meal break
Meal breaks must be taken by certain hours of the day. If an employee works 8 hours in a day, the company is required to allow a meal break no later than 5 hours after the start period. However, this meal break can be waived if the employee is only working 6 hours in the day. The waiving of a meal break must be consensual and must be discussed between both the employee and the company.
Some workers have additional shifts or longer shifts. If a worker is working for more than 10 hours, a second meal break must be allowed, this one no later than 10 hours after the beginning of the shift. The second meal period can also be waived, but with slightly different requirements. The total hours worked during the shift must not exceed 12 hours, and the first meal break that was required must also not have been waived. Therefore, an employee can waive two meal breaks in one day.
In the event a worker is required to work through his meal break, the company is required to pay for an hour of regular wages. It is not required for the company to pay overtime in the event a meal break is missed. If two meal breaks are missed, the company must pay 2 hours of normal wages. If your employer forces you to continually miss meal periods, you are owed your wages for the hour, and the employer can get in serious trouble and be required to pay various fines.
Additionally, meal breaks cannot be interrupted. An interrupted lunch or meal break would essentially void the meal break and cause the employer to owe the full hour of wages.
You should fight back if your employer requires you to work during your meal breaks. Get in touch with an employment attorney today to take legal action.
Filing a Lawsuit for Missed Meal Breaks
If you wish to sue your employer to seek compensation for missed meal breaks or meal breaks you were forced to skip, you will need adequate evidence that your employer was responsible for it. If you choose to work through your meal break, your employer is not responsible for any payment – your employer is merely expressly forbidden to prevent you from taking it or to discourage you from doing so. If you have fallen behind on a deadline and skip your meal break, you cannot sue and cite your employer’s fault, for example.
The first bit of evidence that you should show is your terms of employment. That is, if you are a part-time worker who does not work more than 5 hours of day, you are not entitled to the 30 minute break. You can show that you have worked for a certain period of time each day via your pay stubs or bank statements compared to your hourly wages.
Next, you will need proof that your employer actively prevented you from taking your meal breaks. This can be difficult, as there is a high chance that a lot of the evidence is verbal in nature. For example, your boss may constantly come into the office and orally request that you do a quick project or work with a client despite you being on lunch or about to go to lunch.
You should keep a log or journal of all the times you were forced to miss a meal break. You can track the dates, times, details of the event, who was involved, what your boss requested, the end result, and more.
If there are recordings available, such as by surveillance footage or videos, you can add these to your claim. However, it will be very difficult to acquire this footage. The company may know that you are up to something by requesting them, and they could simply refuse to hand them over or destroy them.
You should request eyewitness statements and testimonies from your coworkers. They can attest to you skipping meal breaks or to your employer requesting that you pass meal breaks up in favor of working. However, it may be hard to get these statements from your coworkers. They may not want to risk being retaliated against or punished; they could feasibly lose their jobs if they provide you with their testimonies. Your employer may want them gone if they help.
Finally, it is highly advised that you seek out a Los Angeles employment attorney who can help you with your claim. If you do not have any previous legal experience, you run the risk of losing your case. You might not know how to negotiate or how to use the law to your advantage, and you might not know what laws to even cite. Our attorneys will work for your rightful compensation from start to finish while you focus on finding more work if you feel the need for a job change.
Statute of Limitations for a Lawsuit to Claim Wages from Missed Meal Breaks
The statute of limitations is the time during which you can pursue compensation for an incident. In California, the statute of limitations for pursuing compensation for lost wages due to missed meal breaks is 1 year from the incident. You should be very careful when choosing when to sue – if you are too late, you may not be able to collect the full wages, or you might not even be able to claim any at all.
There are some scenarios in which the statute of limitations can be extended. Most commonly, the statute is suspended if the defendant leaves the state for a period of time. You cannot sue if the individual is not in California, so the deadline will not count down.
The primary reason that individuals do not get their wages reimbursed is because they miss the statute of limitations or they do not know how long it is. Our attorneys will help you determine the deadline and ensure that you miss no important dates.
Why Choose Us
The California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group is one of the most respected law firms in Los Angeles. We have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients throughout the years and we know the best methods for success. We will ensure that your missed wages, tips, benefits, and other losses are fully reimbursed. If you were fire due to addressing the meal break issue, you may also be able to receive adequate severance or even reinstatement. Our lawyers are aggressive an thorough, and we will stop at nothing to secure you a fair settlement, even going to court if we must to defend your rights as an employee in front of a judge and jury.
To schedule a free legal consultation to discuss your claim, you can contact our attorneys any time of day. We will answer all your questions and explain how the legal process will unfold. Your private details and case information will also remain totally confidential when you contact us.
If you hire us, we’ll grant you our zero fee guarantee. This promises that you won’t have to pay us any money out of pocket for our services. We will get paid only if we win, and the money will come from the settlement won from your company. If we lose, we do not get paid a dime. You won’t touch your own savings throughout the case.
Don’t hesitate to contact the California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group if you wish to sue your employer for damages resulting from missed meal breaks.