Please explain how the meal and rest break premiums are paid. When an employer fails to provide two rest breaks and two meal breaks in the same day, is an employee entitled to four hours of premium pay?
No, the employee is entitled to only two hours of premium pay.
With a few exceptions, both Labor Code Section 512 and the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) wage orders address an employer’s obligation to provide meal periods and rest breaks.
Labor Code Section 226.7 further addresses the requirement to pay a premium of one hour at the employee’s regular rate* for failure to provide a meal period or rest break required by the IWC orders.
A court decision clarified that there is one violation for a missed meal break and one violation for a missed rest break in a work day.
In answer to your question, only two hours of premium pay is owed because the statute requires payment of the premium for each work day, not each occurrence during a work day.
Two separate sections of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement Policies and Interpretations Manual provide additional guidance on this issue:
Section 45.2.8: Meal Periods
Premium for Missed Meal Period Is Only Imposed Once Each Day. No matter how many meal periods (rest period penalties are separate) are missed, only one meal period premium is imposed each day. Thus, if an employer employed an employee for twelve hours in one day without any meal period, the penalty would be only one hour at the employee’s regular rate of pay.
Section 45.3.7: Rest Periods
Premium for Failure to Provide Rest Periods is the same as that imposed for failure to provide meal periods. Note that only one hour for failure to provide a rest period may be imposed in each day regardless of the number of rest periods missed.
For additional information about meal and rest break requirements, visit HRCalifornia.com.
*Story updated on 9/23/16 to change reference to regular rate (replacing less accurate reference to “straight time” rate).
The Labor Law Helpline is a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.