Those Minutes Add Up.

California and Federal law are pretty clear: if you pay your employees by the hour, there are rules for providing breaks. It’s not just important to know the rules, it’s also important to keep good records to show that you are following those rules. Records are required by law, and they will protect you if an employee files a claim for unpaid break times.

Quick Recap of the Rules
Every hourly employee is entitled to breaks under certain circumstances. Hourly employees are entitled to 10 minute breaks every four hours. An employee who works more than four hours is entitled to a 30-minute meal break. These are mandatory and they are paid.
What’s At Stake
Failure to give employees their breaks and to keep records can be very expensive for the employer. The California Employment Development Division (EDD) makes it easy and accessible place for employees to file claims against their employers. This means any of your present or former employees can bring a claim. Under the rules, employees are entitled to payment for their missed breaks, but the employee gets paid for a full hour instead of 10 minutes. It’s rare that employees just miss one break, so the cost can add up. Also, the employee “grapevine” can lead to other employees bringing the same claim. Finally, the EDD can issue penalties for failure to provide the break. It’s best to nip this problem in the bud.
Keeping Records
Keeping records makes good business sense, and it’s required by law. Failing to keep records makes it your word against the employee’s and it brings a whole different set of penalties. Depending on yoru business, there are different effective ways to track employee breaks. The easiest is to make break-times mandatory (i.e. every day at specific times, all employees are to take breaks). However, it’s rare that this method is available. You can use a traditional time clock, and make sure that the employee clocks breaks as well as any meals. Time sheets for breaks can be organized in different ways as well. Finally, there are some apps out there that can be used if your employees have smart phones. These apps allow employees to clock in, clock out, take breaks and lunches and some even have gps to track the employee location. Regardless of your method of keeping records, make review the records at least weekly to make sure your employees are taking their breaks.

–MWH

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