Recording Meal Breaks
Employers policies and timekeeping records should be based on an uninterrupted, 30-minute meal period that occurred no later than four hours and 59 minutes after a nonexempt employee's start time. It should also be a requirement that employees accurately report all the time they worked. It is advisable to have employees sign their time records and state they have reported all the time they have worked and that they understand that off-the-clock work is not allowed.
To prevent possible liability for overtime pay, it is also advisable to establish a policy of no “off-the-clock” work. This can be included in the meal and rest period policy as well as a timekeeping policy.
Another good practice is for employees to record the start and end of meal periods. Timekeeping records should note that a meal period was provided to the employee by the legally required time, even if the employee volunteered to work during the meal period. If a meal break was provided but the employee chose to work, the employee must be paid for the time worked at a regular rate, not a premium rate. This should be recorded in the payroll records.
If an employee misses a meal period for any reason, they should report the circumstances to the Human Resources Department or other Administrative Office. By following this procedure, the employer can verify that the employee has been paid properly and investigate why the employee was unable to take their meal break. There are a few possible reasons for the missed meal break:
- Is the work not being effectively scheduled to allow for the meal break?
- Is a supervisor somehow discouraging the employee from taking a meal break?
- Is the employee choosing to work of their own accord during a provided period? How is the employer going to address this situation to minimize additional pay obligations?
Employees should be required to report to upper management if they have been unable to take a meal break. This should include being discouraged or impeded from taking a meal break by their supervisor or anyone else. Since it may be the direct supervisor who is preventing them from taking their meal break, it is advisable that employees should be required to report this to upper management not just their direct supervisor.
Periodic timekeeping audits should be conducted to discover any patterns of missed meal breaks or other instances of non-compliance with timekeeping policies.
CLIA Lodging members can call the Free CLIA Helpline at 916.925.2915 with questions about meal breaks and other Human Resource questions.