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Ensure bosses understand break obligations

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Ignorance of the law—and labor regulations—is no excuse. If your supervisors don’t understand that they need to give employees regular breaks and an uninterrupted meal period, they’re likely to trigger a class-action lawsuit.

Recent case: A class-action wage-and-hour lawsuit involving 750 cell tower repair technicians will go forward in California. The attorney for the technicians claims they were never informed they were entitled to breaks and a meal period and had to work so fast none were possible.

When a supervisor testified that he didn’t even know California re­­quired breaks until the lawsuit was filed, the court was not amused. It didn’t matter that the supervisor said he told the technicians they could control their own day. (Benton, et al., v. Telecom Network Specialists, No. B242441, Court of Appeal of California, 2nd Appellate District, 2013)

Final Note: Here’s how rest and meal breaks must work:

Rest breaks: The rest-period pro­­vision requires that every employer “author­­ize and permit all employees to take rest periods, which … shall be based on the total hours worked daily at the rate of ten … minutes net rest time per four … hours or major fraction thereof.” Rest periods count as hours worked. Employers must provide one hour of pay at the regular rate for each workday that the rest period is not provided.

Meals: The meal period provision requires that “[n]o employer shall employ any person for a work period of more than five (5) hours without a meal period of not less than 30 minutes.” Unless the employee is relieved of all duty during a 30-minute meal period, the meal period counts as time worked.

Employers must pay one hour of compensation at the regular rate for each workday that the meal period is not provided.

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