Employer Responsibilities For Reporting Missed Meal And Rest Breaks
Employers in California likely already know — or should know — that they are required to provide non-exempt employees with meal and rest breaks. Indeed, California employees who work for 5 hours or more in a day must receive an unpaid, duty-free meal break of at least 30 minutes, that starts before the 6th hour, and an employee who works 10 or more hours in a day must receive a second meal break. In certain situations, employees can waive these meal breaks, but an employer should be certain that they understand how the law works before agreeing to waive meal breaks. In addition, California employers are required to provide paid, duty-free rest breaks to employees who work more than 3.5 hours in a day. During these breaks, the employer cannot require the employee to do any work-related tasks at all. If an employee must do any type of work during a meal break, then the employer must compensate the employee with a premium for the violation.
In addition to the fact that employers are required to provide these breaks under state law, employers can be liable for premium pay when they violate break laws. When employers must provide premium pay, they have additional obligations, since this pay constitutes “wages” for reporting and pay purposes. This issue was recently decided by the California Supreme Court in Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc. (2022). Our California employment law attorneys can provide you with more information about the case and its implications.
Getting the Facts About Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc.
In the Naranjo case, the California Supreme Court had to determine whether “extra pay for missed breaks constitutes ‘wages’ that must be reported on statutorily required wage statements during employment and paid within statutory deadlines when an employee leaves the job.”
In this case, the employer, Spectrum Security Services, Inc., provided services that included prisoners and detainees to places outside custodial facilities. The employee, Naranjo, had been a guard for Spectrum. He was terminated after he left his post for a meal break in violation of the employer’s policy. Naranjo filed a claim and alleged that Spectrum had violated California’s break laws and sought premium pay. Naranjo argued that Spectrum was required to provide premium pay for violating California’s Labor Code, to report the pay on wage statements, and to pay it in a timely manner.
Compensation for Missed Breaks Constitutes “Wages” Under California Law
Previous cases identified the premium pay as a penalty, not wages. However, the Naranjo Court ruled that this type of extra pay, or premium pay, for missed breaks does in fact constitute “wages” for purposes of reporting and pay. As such, employers are required to comply with California reporting and pay laws for this type of compensation.
The California Supreme clarified that, “although the extra pay is designed to compensate for the unlawful deprivation of a guaranteed break, it also compensates for the work the employee performed during the break period.” Accordingly, “the extra pay thus constitutes wages subject to the same timing and reporting rules as other forms of compensation for work.”
Contact Our California Employment Law Attorneys for Employers
Do you have any questions about your responsibilities as an employer concerning the reporting and pay of certain wages? One of the experienced California employment law attorneys for employers at the Law Office of Karen J. Sloat, APC can answer your questions for you today and assist you with any legal issues at your business. Our firm serves employers in Riverside County, Cathedral City, Coachella and Desert Hot Springs.