On May 23, 2022, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc., No. S258966 (Cal. May. 23, 2022) holding that meal and rest period premium payments constitute wages under California law. The Court found that employers may be held liable for the failure to properly report and timely pay out such wages.
Naranjo is a reminder of the importance of strict compliance with meal break and rest break requirements. Employers should review their written policies and ensure that managers are adequately trained on meal break and rest break rules. California law generally requires employers to provide non-exempt employees with an unpaid 30-minute meal break prior to the end of the fifth hour of work. Employers also are required to provide employees with a paid 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked (or major fraction thereof). The penalty for failing to provide a legally mandated meal break or rest break entitles the employee to payment of one hour of wages at the employee’s regular rate of pay (the “premium” payment).
Naranjo establishes that meal break and rest break premium pay constitute wages. Failing to pay meal break or rest break premiums during employment violates an employer’s prompt payment responsibilities under California Labor Code Section 203. Failing to include premium pay for missed breaks on an employee’s itemized wage statement violates the employer’s duty to supply an accurate itemized statement reflecting an employee’s gross wages earned, net wages earned, and credited hours worked.
Moreover, failure to pay meal break or rest break premiums permits employees to seek statutory waiting time penalties pursuant to Labor Code Section 223 equal to one day of pay for each day an employee’s final wages are withheld or paid late, up to a maximum of 30 days’ wages.
For more information, contact Minami Tamaki Consumer and Employee Rights Group attorneys Sean Tamura-Sato and Lisa Mak online or call us at 415-788-9000.