An employee is complaining about not having enough room in the break room refrigerator for a lunch. Just what is the employer supposed to provide in the break room?
The Industrial Welfare Commission developed a series of regulations, known as Wage Orders, relating to occupational employment throughout California.
The Wage Order categories — such as transportation, agricultural, mercantile, construction, mining, entertainment, office — cover basically every occupation in California. These orders address various classifications of employees, wages and hours, per diem, working and rest provisions, temperature, as well as a multitude of other conditions with which the employer is to comply.
What is not mentioned specifically is a break room.
‘Suitable’ Place to Eat
What the Wage Orders do mention is “seats.” What the employer shall do is provide all employees with suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits their use.
In addition, the orders state that suitable resting facilities will be provided in an area separate from toilet rooms and be available to employees during working hours.
The orders do stipulate that if the employees are required to eat on the premises, the employer shall designate a suitable place to eat. If it is an office environment and work is done at a desk or similar location, that meets the criteria.
It should be noted that nowhere in these orders are the conveniences — snacks, fridge, microwave, coffee and other perks provided by the employer — mentioned. All that is required is to provide an area to “rest.”
I remember chipping in with other employees and buying our office refrigerator and microwave. Our break area was the conference room. If a person is concerned about food spoilage, it may behoove them to invest in a small cooler/ice chest.
Column based on questions asked by callers on the Labor Law Helpline, a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred members and above. 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.