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Why should on-call employees document rest and meal breaks?

On Behalf of | Dec 14, 2023 | Wage & Hour Law

On-call employees are crucial in many industries, ensuring timely responses to emergencies and unexpected situations. However, such work schedules mean frequent interruptions, including meal and rest breaks.

Those who work on-call can benefit from keeping track of their break periods to ensure adequate rest and nutrition, but there are other reasons to document your shifts. Ensuring your rights remain secure is one of the most important.

3 ways to track and record your breaks

California wage and hour laws require employers to provide non-exempt employees with proper rest breaks, depending on shift length. All workers get to take rest periods, which should be in the middle of each work period, based on the total hours worked. The rest breaks must be paid, off-duty and, at a minimum, at the rate of 10 minutes net rest time per four (4) hours, or major fraction thereof.  Workers also get meal breaks based on the total hours worked.  Meal breaks should be at the minimum of 30-minutes, off-duty for every 5 hours worked.  Sometimes, workers are not fully aware that if an employer fails to provide you with a meal break or rest break in accordance with the California wage and hour laws, the employer must pay the employee one (1) hour of pay at the your regular rate of pay, for each day that a meal period or rest period was not provided.

If your break periods are interrupted by on-call duties, a record detailing your activities may ensure you get paid accordingly. Here are three tracking methods to consider.

  1. Electronic timekeeping. Ask your employer to implement an electronic scheduling system that allows on-call workers to clock in and out for breaks. If your boss refuses, download an app to track your hours yourself. Of course, you can also use paper to record your breaks.
  2. Send messages. Make it clear when you are on a break by setting a status update on your phone or sending a message to your superiors. Ensure you document every time your break is interrupted by work. 
  3. Employment documents. You should always keep a copy of the most recent employment policies and procedures in case of a payment dispute. Saving pay stubs, printed schedules and all scheduling communications may add credibility to your side of the matter if a dispute arises.

Consider legal guidance if you believe you have been cheated out of your rightful breaks or paid for them improperly. An experienced representative can help you explore solutions, including possible financial restitution.