Hourly Employees Who Work from Home are Likely Owed Break Penalties Pursuant to California Law

As most employees know, California requires that all employees working over 5 hours receive a 30 minute, uninterrupted meal period within the first 5 hours of work (and, if over 10 hours, a second one).  Employees also must be provided with a ten-minute rest break per four hours worked or major fraction thereof.  

Contrary to popular belief, these breaks must also be provided when employees are working from home – a situation that is now coming up frequently due to the popularity of work from home arrangements due to COVID-19.  One would think that if the employee is at home, they can take breaks whenever they would like.  However, this is often not the case due to a tightly packed schedule of Zoom/conference calls.

If calls are packed so tightly that there is no 30-minute gap during the first 5 hours of work, you have a clear-cut case for a meal break violation.  Unlike in workplace situations where it can be very difficult to prove that an employee was not provided with the opportunity to take a break, your call schedule is all the evidence we need to prove up a COVID-19 meal break case.  These are straightforward, simple, and winnable cases and most employees are unaware that they exist.  The same is true for rest breaks.  The call schedule must provide for ten minute gaps.  If the calls are too tightly spaced, these violations are readily proven from the records.

In addition to the fact that employees must be afforded the opportunity to take these breaks, meal breaks must be recorded on time records and supplied to the employer.  Many employees simply assume that the act of working from home in itself constitutes a break and don’t record meal breaks.  Employers are required to correct that misconception and make sure that employees are recording these breaks, or they may be on the hook not only for paying out break penalties but also for recordkeeping violations.

For the above reasons, we encourage you to contact us if you are currently working from home and are not taking, or recording, your legally required breaks.  We can pursue these claims while you are still employed, either by negotiating an individual settlement or filing a PAGA or class lawsuit.  All representation is on a contingency basis, i.e., we only get paid if we win or settle as a percentage of the recovery. 

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