California law mandates that employers provide meal and rest breaks to their non-exempt employees, which means employees must be relieved of all duties.
However, some employers may violate these laws by requiring employees to remain available during breaks. Some examples would be when an employer requires an employee to weak a walkie-talkie and respond to calls during breaks, monitor patient call lights, continue surveilling a property, keep an eye on a truck, or perform other type of work. Likewise, having to drive to another work location or site during a “break” is not the same as being relieved of all duties
Keep accurate records
One of the most critical steps in documenting and proving meal and rest break violations is to keep precise records of your work hours and breaks. This includes noting the start and end times of each work shift, the start and end times of any meal and rest breaks you take, the dates of when any meal or rest breaks were denied or interrupted, and accurate records of all hours worked.
Get witness statements
If your employer is denying meal and rest breaks to multiple employees, you may be able to obtain witness statements from your colleagues to support your claim. Witnesses can attest to the fact that breaks are being denied to employees and can provide additional details that may be helpful in proving your case.
Tell the employer if the missed breaks are not at the employer’s direction
To the extent that an employee is being denied full meal and/or rest breaks, one of the critical elements of holding an employer liable for failing to provide meal or rest breaks is that the employer must know or should have known what is happening. This is an easy element to meet when the missed, late, or interrupted breaks are at the employer’s direction. However, if the missed, late, or interrupted breaks are not at the employer’s direction, it is important to be able to show that the employer was aware the breaks were not being provided.
File a complaint
Employees who experience meal and rest break violations can file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office, which is responsible for investigating complaints related to employment law violations. When filing a complaint, you will need to provide documentation and evidence of the violations, including any records or witness statements you have collected.
Documenting and proving meal and rest break violations is crucial for non-exempt employees in California whose rights are being denied. Workers can take steps to protect their rights and hold their employers accountable.