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California Break Time and Unpaid Wage Violations

California wage laws are generally more favorable to employees than federal law or the laws of most states. California employees enjoy important wage and hour protections. In addition to offering more favorable minimum wage and overtime protections than federal law, California protects the right of employees to take paid rest periods and unpaid meal breaks. California also requires employers to pay their employees on a regular schedule, and to pay employees immediately after they have been fired. Employers who violate those laws may owe substantial penalties to employees.

Unfortunately, California employers do not always follow the law. When employers fail to give employees the compensation, breaks, and wage information they are entitled to receive, an employment lawyer at KKG Law can help. Our office serves current and former employees in Oakland, San Jose, Fairfield, and all other Bay Area communities.

Meal Breaks

California law requires employers to give most full-time employees at least one unpaid meal break. As a general rule, if an employee works more than 5 hours in a workday, the employee must receive a 30-minute meal break. If an employee works more than 10 hours in a workday, the employee must receive a second 30-minute meal break.

Employees can agree with their employers to give up their meal break if they work less than 6 hours, but only if they make that agreement in advance. If employees work more than 6 hours, an employer must give the employees a meal break, whether or not the employees agree to give up their break time.

A meal break means a period of time during which the employee is released from all job duties and is free to leave the work site. When an employee works through lunch, the employee has not been given a meal break, even if the employee volunteered to skip a meal in order to continue working.

An employee must be paid for the time spent working through a meal break, and may qualify for overtime if the hours worked, including work performed during the meal period, exceeds 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week.

In addition to paying the employee’s regular hourly rate, however, the employer must give an employee additional “premium meal pay” when the employee is not relieved of job duties during the meal period or is not allowed to leave the job site. Premium meal pay consists of one additional hour of pay for each workday during which the meal period was not provided.

For most jobs, if an employee is required to remain “on duty” or is not free to leave during the meal break, the employee must also be given “premium meal pay” for that workday.

Exceptions exist for a few kinds of jobs. For example, an employee may consent in writing to remaining “on duty” during a meal break if the employee is paid for the break time, but only if the nature of the employee’s job prevents the employee from being relieved of all job-related responsibilities during the meal break.

An employment lawyer at KKG Law can help employees understand whether they are entitled to receive premium meal pay for days in which they were required to remain on duty. KKG Law helps employees pursue appropriate remedies when they are not given premium meal pay for each day an employer failed to give them a required meal break.

Rest Periods

Most employees in California have the right to take a paid 10-minute rest in approximately the middle of each four hours of work, as long as they work more than 3-1/2 hours in the workday. Employees must generally receive one rest period if they work at least 3-1/2 hours but not more than 6 hours in a workday, two rest periods if they work between 6 and 10 hours in a workday, and three rest periods if they work between 10 and 14 hours.

The rest period begins when the employee reaches an employer-provided break area. Since rest periods are paid time, employers may require employees to remain on the job site during the 10-minute break, but must relieve them of the obligation to work. A meal break does not count as a rest period, but meal breaks do not count toward the computation of the length of the workday.

Lactating mothers must be allowed to express their breast milk during a rest period and must be provided a private place (other than a bathroom) in which to do so. If a mother needs more breaks or more time to express breast milk, the employer must generally accommodate those needs, but is only required to pay wages for the 10-minute rest periods.

If an employer does not allow an employee to take a rest break required by California law, the employee is entitled to one hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate for each day during which a rest period was not made available.  KKG Law helps employees recover that penalty.

Unpaid and Late Paid Wages

Wage payments are determined by the employer’s agreement to pay specified wages to the employee, subject to minimum wage and overtime protections. Employees who are not paid earned wages can sue for breach of contract.

Nonexempt employees must usually be paid at least twice a month. Wages must usually be paid within seven days of the close of the payroll period, although employers who pay wages twice a month are given a few more days to pay.

California employers must pay all earned wages immediately after the employer fires the employee, although they may be allowed extra time to compute commissions. When an employee quits without notice, all unpaid wages must be paid within 72 hours. However, when the employee has given notice of the intent to quit at least 72 hours before the last date of employment, the employer must pay all unpaid wages immediately after employee’s resignation takes effect.

An employer that does not make timely payment of final wages after an employee quits or is discharged may be required to continue paying the employee’s regular salary until final payment is made, for a period of up to 30 days. The same penalty applies when an employer pays final wages with a check that bounces.

Helping California Employees Collect Unpaid Wages

An employment lawyer at KKG Law can help employees who have not been paid wages, who were denied meal breaks or rest periods, or who were not paid their final wages on time. KKG Law represents current and former employees in Oakland, San Jose, Fairfield, and all other Bay Area communities. Contact KKG Law at 707-898-8125.