An employee is entitled to an uninterrupted, consecutive 10 minute rest period for every 4 hours worked. This 10 minute break does not start until the employee reaches the break area. A rest period is based on the total number of hours worked in a day, therefore in a typical 8 hour day; an employee is entitled to two 10 minute rest breaks.
We recently handled a case where the employees came to our client and asked if they could take a single 20 minute break in an 8 hour shift, rather than the two-10 minute breaks. Our client, who was easy going and wanted to appease his employees, had no problem with this, so he agreed that his employees could take a single 20 minute break in the morning and waive their 10 minutes in the afternoon. Then our client was sued by his employees.
The penalties for a missed meal period and/or rest break are one additional hour of pay. If, however, an employee missed a meal period and both rest periods in an eight hour shift, the maximum penalty is two hours of pay for that day. This penalty goes back to the last three years prior to when the employee filed a lawsuit.
All business owners should have an employee handbook, with a clear written policy describing the meal periods and rest breaks of the business. All business owners should also have clear training for their employees and keep accurate time records. If you need a simple excel spreadsheet on how to keep track of meal periods and rest periods, email me at Cindy@HacklerFlynnLaw.com and I will share one with you.