California law requires employers to provide a 30-minute meal period for every five hours worked. This means that an employee who works more than five hours is entitled to one 30-minute meal break, and an employee who works more than 10 hours is entitled to two 30-minute meal breaks. Meal breaks are unpaid, and the employee must be relieved of all duty and allowed to leave the premises. When an employee is not provided with a legally-compliant meal period – whether it was missed entirely, shorter than 30 minutes, or provided too late in the shift – the employee is entitled to a penalty payment of one hour of pay.
Many employers round employee time punches to the nearest 10- or 15-minute increments. For example, if an employee clocks out for lunch at 12:00 p.m., and clocks back in at 12:23, the timekeeping software will round the meal break up from 23 minutes up to 30 minutes. The meal break will appear compliant with California law, even though the employee received less than the required 30 minutes for lunch.
On February 25, the California Supreme Court ruled that employers are not permitted to round an employee’s time punches for purposes of recording meal breaks. The Court handed down the ruling in a class action case brought by nurse recruiters who work for AMN Services LLC, a healthcare staffing company. In the opinion, the Court said that California law requires precise timekeeping for meal breaks and that subtracting even a few minutes is contrary to the important health and safety reasons for providing breaks, such as reducing stress, reducing workplace accidents and enabling employees to take care of important personal tasks.
Writing for the majority, Justice Liu wrote: “Within a 30-minute timeframe, a few minutes can make a significant difference when it comes to eating an unhurried meal, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, giving instructions to a babysitter, refreshing oneself with a cup of coffee or simply resting before going back to work.” The Court further ruled that if the employer’s records show a meal break violation – i.e., a missed, short or late meal – this creates a presumption that the employee is entitled to penalty pay. To avoid liability, the employer must rebut the presumption by showing that the employer was provided the opportunity to take the break and chose not to take it.
If you believe you have been subject to wage-and-hour violations at work, including missed meal or rest breaks, contact Teukolsky Law today for a consultation.
Following Teukolsky Law’s Suit Against Chateau Marmont, DA George Gascon Issues Statement Supporting Workers
LA Country District Attorney George Gascon has issued a statement in support of workers following a suit filed by Teukolsky Law against the legendary Chateau Marmont hotel.
District Attorney Gascón stated: “I am aware of the civil lawsuit and allegations made regarding the Chateau Marmont Hotel. Workers can often feel powerless when dealing with hostile workplaces, dangerous work conditions, and wage theft. I am committed to protecting workers in Los Angeles County.”
Gascon’s statement references the lawsuit filed on January 27 by former employee and plaintiff Thomasina Gross. The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Gross, who is African-American, was repeatedly passed over for promotions and work assignments in favor of white candidates and colleagues. The suit also alleges that Ms. Gross faced unwanted touching from guests as she served them, and that management did not help when she attempted to report this conduct.
Gascon, who has been in office since December, campaigned on a progressive platform of reforming the DA’s office. His statement follows actress and activist Jane Fonda’s pledge to boycott the Chateau Marmont until it has addressed the workers’ concerns.
The Hollywood Reporter wrote an article about Gascon’s statement, which can be found here.
If you believe you have experienced racial discrimination or sexual harassment at work, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
As Prop 22 goes into effect in California, workers and unions are already fighting back against the measure, which was largely propped up by tech giants’ $200 million “Yes on 22” campaign.
Several drivers and SEIU filed a petition in California Supreme Court on January 12, 2021 seeking to overturn the new ballot measure, which aims to permanently classify gig workers as independent contractors instead of employees. The drivers and union allege that Prop 22 violates California’s constitution and are asking the Court to invalidate the new law, arguing that Prop 22 makes it too difficult for state legislators to implement workers’ compensation. On February 3, the Court declined to hear the suit 5-2. However, the Court said the case could be refiled in a lower court. On February 11, the drivers and union filed a similar suit in Alameda County Superior Court.
Prop 22’s destructive effects are being felt by workers statewide. The Knock LA reported last month that Vons, Pavilions, and other stores owned by Albertsons Companies in California plan to fire grocery delivery drivers later this month and will shift to a third-party delivery service that uses independent contractors. Drivers working for Albertsons Companies are currently classified as employees; the company’s Bay Area drivers are unionized and will not be affected by the change, but delivery drivers in Southern California not protected by a union lack the power to fight back against this move by the grocery stores.
If you believe you have been misclassified as an independent contractor instead of an employee, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.