If you have ever worked an hourly wage position, you probably heard in training that the employer was “required” to give you a 30-minute lunch break every shift over a certain number of hours. Employers make a big deal about legal responsibility and break times, yet many employees experience times when they are forced to work through their lunch hour because it was “just too busy” that day.
It is true that a 30-minute meal break is required under California Law for every 5 hours worked by each employee. This means that the employee must take a complete break from any and all work duties. If they are answering phone calls, returning phone calls, answering questions, updating records or anything else they are not on an uninterrupted lunch break.
If you work an 8.0 hour day without a lunch break, you should be credited with 30 minutes of overtime pay. What this basically means is that for every 30 minute lunch break the employer fails to give the employee, they must pay that employee for one hour of work time. An employer cannot claim that an employee waived their right to lunch if the employee chooses to work through lunch because they are too busy and there is no one available to relieve them.
Violations of this law have led to serious lawsuits for employers. A large retail store was required to pay more than $170 million in compensatory damages to approximately 116,000 employees who worked at several of the retailer’s California stores. If you feel that your right to a lunch break has been violated in any way do not be afraid to seek the advice and assistance of an employment law attorney.
Employment Lawyer Los Angeles – Peter K. Levine
Source: Dateline USA “Automatic 30-minute deductions for lunch may be illegal” Joe Sayas 9/14/10