The California Supreme Court has made a monumental ruling regarding rounding practices for meal periods. Historically, employers have had the option to round time punches, as long as the rounding was in favor of the employee. This new ruling has clarified that employers may not round meal period time punches. Time must be tracked and paid by the minute when taking a meal period. 

California employers are required to provide employees with a 30-minute meal period for every five hours worked. “For every five hours worked” means that the meal period must be provided by the time the employee has worked 4 hours and 59 minutes. For example, if an employee clocks in at 8am, their meal break must begin by 12:59pm.

If an employee fails to clock out for their lunch by 12:59pm, a meal premium would be owed to the employee. A meal premium is an extra hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of pay. This is not considered “time worked” so it is not factored into overtime.

Meal premiums are owed when an employee takes a late meal period (more than 4 hours, 59 minutes into their shift), takes a short meal period (anything less than 30 minutes), or misses a meal period entirely. Meal premiums should be listed as a separate line item on wage statements. 

What should employers do now? 
California employers should review their timekeeping practices for current compliance. If you are rounding time for meal periods, begin paying for actual time worked as soon as possible. Employers should also consider moving away from rounding any time punches as it can open the door for potential or unintentional wage and hour violations. Your consulting team is ready to assist you with best practice recommendations and solutions.