This post is strictly for the purposes of illustrating WHEN that lunch break in California must be provided.
The state says “… a meal period must be provided no later than the end of the employee’s fifth hour of work (in other words, no later than the start of the employee’s sixth hour of work). …”
In my role as an HR Knowledge Advisor, I have heard hundreds of times over the years about that one sentence in the state’s law:
“What does that mean?” “Show me.” “Can you give me an example?”
So, here it is.
Let’s say, employee, Pat, works 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
8 a.m. - 9 a.m. = first hour
9 a.m. - 10 a.m. = second hour
10 a.m. - 11 a.m. = third hour
11 a.m. - noon = fourth hour
noon - 1 p.m. = fifth hour
So before 1 p.m., Pat must get a meal break of at least 30 minutes.
That means 12:59:59 is just in time—but good luck cutting it that close. You’re not going to make it, so don’t risk it. Provide the break far in advance enough that you don’t risk hitting 1:00:01, because now you’re too late.
According to the state, “If an employer fails to provide an employee a meal period or rest period in accordance with an applicable order of the Industrial Welfare Commission, the employer shall pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each workday that the meal or rest period is not provided.”
Employers don’t have to “police” the break, but they must provide it.
If you want to know more about California meal periods, including second-meal break requirements, break requirements for any other state, or any other HR-related question, we’d love to help! Give us a call or send an e-mail. We’re also available by chat. It’s one of the most valued benefits of SHRM membership!