Company violations of rest period policies are part of an explosion of class-action lawsuits against employers. Here are some of the basic regulations from the California Department of Industrial Relations and how to stay on the right side of them.

California Break Requirements

California law stipulates a 10-minute break for every four hours worked. A meal break is separate from the two regular breaks provided in an 8-hour workday.

What a break is:

• A paid time during the work day

• A time to rest in a leisure area such as a cafeteria or break room

What a break is not:

• The only time an employee can use the restroom facilities

• A time to be on call by radio or phone

Compensation Rule

If an employee does not get to take a break at the customary time, the employer must ensure that it is made up at another time in the same workday. If that does not happen, the employer is required by law to compensate the employee with one hour of regular wages in the current pay period.

Statute of Limitations

By California law, your employees have a three-year statute of limitations to file a claim for missed break period compensation. The law stipulates that each violation is compensated by an additional hour of pay over the missed break time.

Multiply that by the number of missed breaks and then the number of employees that have lost breaks, and the figure becomes a hefty number. Ensuring that your managers follow the law and provide employees with adequate breaks will help protect your business from a costly civil claim.