The California Supreme Court issued a ruling last week in a case called Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC. The court decided two legal issues regarding meal breaks, and neither decision was favorable for employers.
First, the Court examined whether an employer can round the meal break time punches in order to establish that the employee took a 30-minute meal period. For instance, many employers have a policy of rounding employee clock-in and clock-out times to the nearest tenth of an hour. In this case, AMN tried to round the employee’s meal period punches to claim that a thirty-minute meal break was taken. The Court found that this was unlawful and that an employer must provide a full thirty-minute, uninterrupted meal break.
Second, the Court examined whether AMN’s time records showing non-compliant meal periods create a rebuttable presumption of meal period violations. The court held that it did. What does this mean? It means that an employee with non-compliant time records will likely get past summary judgment on a meal break claim. It also means that, if your business’ time records show non-compliant meal periods, the burden shifts to you to establish the employee received a lawful meal break. Finally, it means that it is time to check your employees’ time cards and your meal break policies to ensure that breaks are lawfully taken and reflected in the time records.