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California Supreme Court Rules Employers Must Properly Pay Meal and Rest Period Premiums

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On May 23, 2022, in Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services Inc., the California Supreme Court unanimously held that meal and rest period premium pay is subject to the same wage statement and final pay requirements as other wages earned by employees.

California Meal & Rest Breaks 

California employers generally must provide meal and rest breaks as follows: 

Employee Breaks

For meal breaks, employers generally must: 

  • Provide a 30-minute unpaid meal period to nonexempt employees working more than 5 hours per day.
  • Provide a second meal period of at least 30 minutes to employees who work more than 10 hours per day.
  • Relieve its employees of all duty during meal periods.
  • If it fails to provide a required meal period, pay the employee 1 additional hour of pay at his or her regular rate of pay for each workday the meal period is not provided.

Click here for more details, including the timing of meal breaks. 

For rest periods, employers generally must:

  • Permit nonexempt employees to take a paid rest period that must, insofar as practicable, be taken in the middle of each work period. The rest period must be at the minimum rate of a net 10 consecutive minutes for each 4-hour work period, or major fraction thereof.
  • During rest periods, relieve employees of all duties and relinquish control over how employees spend their time. On-call rest periods are generally prohibited.
  • Provide suitable resting facilities that are available for employees during working hours in an area separate from the toilet rooms.
  • If they fail to provide a required rest period, pay the employee 1 additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of pay for each workday that the rest period is not provided.
  • Count a mandated recovery period (a cooldown period afforded to an employee to prevent heat illness) as hours worked, for which there may be no deduction from wages.

Employers may not:

  • Require that an employee stay on the work premises during his or her rest period.
  • Require an employee to work during a mandated recovery period.

Click here for more details on rest (and lactation) breaks, and here for details on recovery periods.  

Missed Meal and Rest Period Premiums

Under state law, employers must compensate their employees with one additional hour of pay for each workday they miss a meal or rest break. This premium must be paid at the employees’ regular wage rate.

On May 23, 2022, in Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services Inc. (Naranjo), the California Supreme Court unanimously held that meal and rest period premium pay is subject to the same wage statement and final pay requirements as other wages earned by employees. The dispute in Naranjo arose when Gustavo Naranjo was terminated from his position as a guard at Spectrum Security Services Inc. (Spectrum) after he abandoned his post to take a meal break. Spectrum required employees to remain on duty during meal periods. Naranjo sued, claiming Spectrum violated state wage and hour laws by failing to:  

  • Compensate employees with premium pay for missed meal and rest periods;
  • Accurately report these premium payments in wage statements; and
  • Pay these premiums in a timely manner upon termination.  

 The Naranjo decision clarifies that employers must ensure that meal and rest period premium pay is accurately and timely included in wage statements and employee final paychecks. In practice, this also means that employers in California need to ensure that their payroll, time tracking and wage payment processes accurately identify and account for missed meal and rest periods.  

Day of Rest

Employees are generally entitled to 1 day’s rest every 7 days. An employer may notcause its employees to work more than 6 days every 7 days.  

Lactation Breaks 

 Employers generally must: 

  • Provide a reasonable amount of break time for an employee to express breast milk for her infant child. The break time must, if possible, run concurrently with any break time already provided to her (break time not running concurrently with the rest time authorized by the applicable wage order is unpaid).
  • Provide an employee with a room or location, other than a bathroom, in close proximity to her work area, to express milk in private, shielded from view, and free from intrusion. Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, the lactation room must:
    • Be safe, clean and free of hazardous materials;
    • Contain a surface for a breast pump and personal items;
    • Contain a place to sit; and
    • Have access to electricity or alternative devices (extension cords, charging stations) needed to operate breast pumps.    
  • Provide lactating employees with access to a sink with running water and a suitable place for storing expressed milk, such as a refrigerator beginning Jan. 1, 2020. Water and storage access must be in close proximity to the employee’s workspace. 
  • Implement a lactation policy (with required specified information) and include it in their employee handbook or other set of policies made available to employees. The policy must be distributed to new employees upon hiring and when an employee asks about or requests parental leave.

Employers with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for an exemption from one of the requirements listed above if they can prove that providing the accommodation would cause the employer significant difficulty or expense in relation to the size, financial resources, nature or structure of the employers’ business. Click here for more information about lactation accommodations. 

Click here for city-specific lactation requirements in San Francisco. 

More Information  

Additional requirements and exceptions to the information above may apply. For more information, please contact the California Labor Commissioner’s Office.

Please Note: The state laws summaries featured on this site are for general informational purposes only. In addition to state law, certain municipalities may enact legislation that imposes different requirements. State and local laws change frequently and, as such, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information featured in the State Laws section. For more detailed information regarding state or local laws, please contact your state labor department or the appropriate local government agency. 

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