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California Supreme Court: Missed meal and rest breaks are wages

On Behalf of | Sep 1, 2022 | Wage & Hour Law

The Supreme Court of California recently ruled that missed meal and rest break premiums are wages. Additionally, unpaid wages must be paid retroactively to the employee, or else the employer can face fines and other consequences. The ruling helps to ensure that employees who work through scheduled meal and rest breaks are paid their due wages.

Specifically, the case heard by the California Supreme Court was Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Service, Inc. The high court reversed a lower court’s decision and ruled that premium pay for missed meal and rest breaks must be reported on wage statements under California Labor Code section 226.

Many employees work through meal and rest breaks to protect their jobs, meet deadlines or seek promotions. The high court has now clarified that employees must be paid compensation for working through meal and rest breaks.

Understanding missed meal and rest break premiums

If an employee works through their meal break and doesn’t get paid for that time, that violates California wage and hour law. An employer’s failure to count missed meal and rest breaks as work time could also affect the employee’s overtime pay or bonuses.

For example, if you work through a meal break, that could push your work time to more than eight hours in a single workday, and you are supposed to get paid 1.5 times your regular pay rate for every hour you work above eight in a single workday.

Some employers have argued that meal breaks are unpaid, and it’s voluntary if the worker chooses to work during that period. The Supreme Court of California disagreed. Workers must be paid for time worked during meal and rest breaks. Additionally, employers should retroactively compensate unpaid wages.

Not being paid your due wages? Know your options.

If you think you are owed unpaid wages, gathering documentation such as timecards and pay statements may help you prove your claim. You can also speak with a California employment law attorney if you believe you are owed unpaid wages.