I have a group of employees who always work a six-hour shift. They’ve told me that they don’t want to take their meal break so they can leave work after six hours. I know that the employees can skip their meal break if they sign a waiver, but I was wondering if they can just sign the waiver one time to cover all their future missed meal breaks since having to deal with all of that paperwork can be cumbersome.
You are correct that your employees can waive their meal break so long as they work no more than six hours in their workday. California Labor Code Section 512 allows for such waivers so long as both the employer and the employee agree to the waiver. This waiver can be revoked by the employee at any time.
Nothing in the Labor Code requires that the waiver be in writing, but it is highly recommended that you use written waivers, as the written waiver has greater evidentiary weight than the verbal testimony of the employer should an employee bring a claim for missed meal breaks.
The California Chamber of Commerce offers a sample policy in the Forms section of the HRCalifornia website, entitled “Meal Break Waiver—Employee Shift 6 Hours or Less.”
Furthermore, the greater the number of written waivers that the employer has, the stronger its evidence will be that the employee voluntarily waived each missed meal break.
If the employer were to produce a single waiver allegedly covering a large number of missed meal breaks, it would be easy for the employee to assert that the waiver pertained to a single day and not to months or years of missed meal breaks. Consequently, it is a best practice to have a written waiver for each meal period that your employees fail to take on days when the employee works six hours or less.
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.