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  • Robert Strickland

Employers Must Precisely Record Employees' Meal Periods; No rounding of time punches

On February 25, 2021, the California Supreme Court in the Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC case, held that employers must precisely record employees full 30-minute meal breaks and may not use a timekeeping system that rounds time punches. The case brought by Kennedy Donohue, who worked as a nurse recruiter, alleged that employer AMN Services, LLC's timekeeping system denied her and other class action members with compliant 30-minute meal periods. The system rounded employees' time punches to the nearest 10-minute increments, reflecting that employees took the full 30-minute meal break when in fact, they had not.

The California Supreme Court noted that, based on Labor Code section 512 and IWC Wage Order No. 4, employers are legally required to give their employees a 30-minute break after their fifth hour of compensated work (Lab. Code, §512, subd. (a); IWC Wage Order No. 4, § 11(A).) If the employer does not do so, the employer must pay the employee "premium pay" for that violation. "Premium pay" is one hour of pay at the employee's regular rate of pay for each workday that a compliant meal period is not provided. (IWC Wage Order No. 4, §11(B).)

The Court found that the practice of rounding punches for meal periods was inconsitent with the language of section 512 and Wage Order No.4, as "the text of Labor Code section 512 and Wage Order No. 4 sets precise time requirements for meal periods." The rounding would be at odds with those requirements. "Small rounding errors can amount to a significant infringement on an employee's right to a 30-minute meal period."

For full text of the case, see Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC (NO. S253677)

If your employer uses an electronic timekeeping system to track meal breaks, it must be precise. If you feel your employment rights may have been violated, contact us to schedule a free consultation.

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