Under California law, employers need to provide meal and rest breaks to most unsalaried employees. If an employee works any part of a meal or rest period, an employer has to pay them an additional hour of pay. Now, according to the state Supreme Court, this extra pay is considered wages which must be reported on legally required wage statements and paid within deadlines when a worker leaves employment.
A security guard started this employment law class-action lawsuit after he was suspended and later fired for violating company policy by leaving his post to take a meal and rest break. The security guard claimed that the employer violated meal break requirements under California Labor Code and an Industrial Welfare Commission order.
The suit sought an additional hour of pay, known as premium pay, for each day the company did not provide employees with the required meal and rest periods. The employer, according to the lawsuit, also violated the Labor Code by failing to report the premium pay on employee wage statements and timely pay these wages when they resigned or were discharged.
The lawsuit ultimately came before the state Supreme Court. That Court ruled that the extra pay for missed breaks should be considered as wages and had to be reported on the wage statements required under state law. Also, the employer must pay these wages within deadlines after the employee leaves employment.
Waiting time penalties
Employers may be liable for additional waiting time penalties by not paying owed wages to departing workers in a timely manner. The state Supreme Court ruled that premium pay for missed or insufficient break are employee wages for the work they performed during their meal or rest period.
The Labor Code also requires employers to provide workers with information on their hours worked, earned wages and hourly rates. Employees may be entitled to damages if they are harmed by their employers’ intentional and knowing violation of this requirement. This also covers any wages that were owed but not paid.
Employers need to include premium payments for any missed meal and rest periods on wage statements for the periods where the premiums are owed. Employers should also assure that final wages include these any of these payments earned by the employee. Otherwise, there may have to pay these additional penalties for wage statements or waiting time violations.
Attorneys can assist with compliance with these laws. They can also represent interests in an investigation or legal action.