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The 12 Days of California Labor & Employment Series – Day 6 "Meal and Rest Break Changes"

It's the end of the year and while everyone is busy, employers in California should be aware of new laws and regulations that go into effect on January 1, 2019. In the spirit of the season, we are using the next "12 days of the holidays" to blog about one California law a day and that law's impact on California employers. On the sixth day of Christmas, my Labor and Employment attorney gave to me—six geese a'laying and AB 2605 and AB 2610.

California has generous meal and rest break laws and requirements. In general, an employee who works over five hours in a day is entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes. The meal break must start before the end of the fifth hour of the shift. In addition, if an employee works over 10 hours in a day, he/she may be entitled to a second meal break of at least 30 minutes that must start before the end of the 10th hour of the shift. The meal break must be uninterrupted and an employee cannot be required to work during the meal break.

This year, the legislature passed AB 2605, which applies to employers operating petroleum facilities. This law exempts specified employees who hold safety sensitive positions at a petroleum facility from the rest and recovery period requirements. If one of these employees has their rest or recovery period interrupted, the employer will pay one additional hour compensation at the regular rate of pay. However, due to the dangerous nature of the business, these employees can be interrupted at any time. This bill took effect immediately as it was deemed an urgency statute. However, it sunsets on January 1, 2021.

The legislature also passed AB 2610, which applies to certain commercial drivers. A commercial driver employed by a motor carrier who is transporting nutrients and byproducts from a commercial feed manufacturer  to a customer located in a remote rural location may start their meal period after six hours of work rather than within the fifth hour of work. If this occurs, the drivers regular rate of pay needs to be no less than 1 1/2 times the state minimum wage rate and the driver must receive overtime compensation.

Employers in these industries should evaluate whether they have any employees who would fall under these categories so they can adjust their policies and procedures accordingly.

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