On-Duty Meal Breaks

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Your On-Duty Meal Break Rights

Sometimes the law allows employers to require their employees to work “on-duty” meal breaks.  But only sometimes, and only in very limited circumstances.  Many employers who require “on-duty” meal breaks are in violation of the law, and you may be entitled to unpaid wages for all of the times you were required to take an “on-duty” meal break.

Unless the employee is relieved of all duty during his or her thirty-minute meal period, the meal period is considered an “on duty” meal period that is counted as hours worked which must be compensated at the employee’s regular rate of pay. An “on duty” meal period is permitted only when the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all duty and when by written agreement between the employer and employee an on-the-job paid meal period is agreed to. The written agreement must state that the employee may, in writing, revoke the agreement at any time. IWC Wage Orders 1 – 15, Section 11, Order 16, Section 10.

The test of whether the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all duty is an objective one. An employer and employee may not agree to an on-duty meal period unless, based on objective criteria, any employee would be prevented from being relieved of all duty based on the necessary job duties.

If the employer requires the employee to remain at the work site or facility during the meal period, the meal period must be paid. This is true even where the employee is relieved of all work duties during the meal period. Bono Enterprises, In. v. Bradshaw (1995) 32 Cal.App.4th 968.

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