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Meal and rest break policies should stress the timing of the breaks and that employees are prohibited from working or being available to work during these breaks. Periodically remind employees of your policy.

The following are some additional general guidelines:

  • Review your Wage Order(s).
  • Create compliant meal and rest break policies.
  • Comply with the timing requirements for meal and rest breaks issued by the courts. For more information, see “Timing of Rest Breaks” in Rest Breaks and “Timing of Meal Breaks” in Meal Breaks.
  • Schedule meal and rest breaks.
  • Meet your obligation to provide uninterrupted meal and rest breaks where the employee is relieved of all duty. Employees cannot be on call during these breaks. The employer must relinquish all control over how the time is spent.
  • Require employees to accurately record time in for the day, meal break beginning and ending times, and time out for the day. For more information, see “Recording Meal Breaks” in Meal Breaks.
  • Since the rest break time is paid, the employee does not need to clock out. However, employers may want to consider having their timekeeping records reflect that the rest break was provided to the employee.
  • Regularly audit your timecard records to determine whether employees are accurately reporting time and/or if there is a pattern of employees working through breaks.
  • Educate managers about their obligations relating to meal and rest breaks and discipline managers who do not follow policy. Train managers that they cannot interrupt employees during breaks.
  • Inform employees that they should notify management if they have been denied the opportunity to take a meal or rest break. Employees should not be required to report this only to their direct supervisor, as it may be the supervisor who is discouraging them from taking the break.
  • Properly document missed meal and rest breaks.
  • Pay nonexempt employees one hour at their regular rate if they miss any meal break or are interrupted (without a valid waiver or on-duty meal break). Also, pay nonexempt employees one hour at their regular rate of compensation if they miss a rest break during the workday or are interrupted. For more information, see Premium Pay for Meal and/or Rest Break Violations.
  • Ask employees to report the reason for any missed break to human resources (or to another office administrator). This will allow you to account for the time for payroll purposes and also to monitor why employees are missing breaks.
  • Consistently discipline employees who do not return from breaks within the required time. This is a disciplinary issue, not a pay issue. You still need to pay them appropriately.
  • Consult with legal counsel regarding the approach that is best for your industry.