Ignoring meal and rest period requirements and/or not documenting them properly can be costly for employers. Costs can include Premium Pay, Waiting Time Penalties, civil penalties, court costs, and attorney’s fees. These costs can easily add up to thousands of dollars per employee.
Rest breaks are a paid break for a minimum of 10 minutes for every four hours of work (or major fraction thereof, which is defined as any amount of time over two hours). Rest breaks may not be accumulated, added to meal periods, or taken at the beginning or the end of the shift. Missed breaks are subject to Premium Pay of one additional hour of pay for each “missed” break.
Non-exempt employees working five (5) or more hours in any day are required to take a meal break of at least thirty (30) minutes within the first five (5) hours of work. The meal break must begin no later than 4 hours and 59 minutes into an employee’s shift and it must be uninterrupted, or it is subject to Premium Pay of one additional hour of pay for each “missed” meal period.
When a work period of not more than six hours will complete the day’s work, the meal break may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee.
A second meal break of no fewer than thirty (30) minutes is required for all workdays an employee works more than ten (10) hours. The second meal break may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee if the employee took their first meal break and the total hours worked are not more than twelve (12) on that workday.
Employees choosing to waive a meal break under the above options should sign a Meal Break Waiver form indicating their choice.
The burden of meal break compliance proof rests squarely on the employer; therefore, it is imperative that non-exempt employees document their meal breaks daily on their time records.
The maximum penalty (Premium) for missed meal and rest breaks is two hours of pay per day. Depending on the circumstances, an employee has up to four years to file an unpaid wage claim.
In very limited situations, when the nature of the employee’s duties prevents the employee from being relieved of all duty, certain designated employees may be authorized to work an “on-duty meal period.” (An example would be a lone security guard who works the night shift.) An employee will be permitted to take an on-duty meal period only if the nature of their job requires an on-duty meal period, and the employee and the company have agreed, in advance, and in writing, to an on-duty meal period. In this situation, the on-duty meal period will be paid and treated as hours worked.
Employee timecards, waivers, on-duty meal agreements, and pay stubs should be reviewed periodically to ensure that meal and rest period regulations are being administered properly. Let Leap Solutions help you wade through the complexities of break and meal periods before you experience an unpaid wage claim.
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