Q. I am the HR director for a large company. We recently realized that we have not been providingwith any breaks during the day (other than a lunch break). What should we do?
A. Under California law, an employer must provide a rest period of at least 10 minutes for nonexempt employees when they work at least 3½ hours.
Thus, if an employee works an eight-hour day, he or she is entitled to two rest breaks (in addition to a 30-minute unpaid lunch period). Each rest period should fall as close to the middle of the work period as possible.
Clearly you are not in compliance with state law and should alter your practices accordingly.
The company could be held liable under a variety of theories for failing to properly provide breaks. Although you probably would not be held liable for unpaid wages (because your workers were paid for the time they worked), a claim could be brought under state law for civil penalties. The company could be ordered to cease such practices in the future. Workers could also sue for breach of contract if oral or written representations were made that such breaks would be provided.