California Labor and Employment Defense Blog

Bad Economy Forces Politicians To Re-Think California's Meal Break and Overtime Laws

The bad economy is forcing politicians and business owners to re-examine California's laws on meal and rest breaks, and overtime.  The Governor has proposed legislation to reform these laws in order to keep jobs and businesses here in California.  As the Los Angeles Times reports today these issues are becoming "bargaining chips" in the state budget crisis.  The article notes:

Consider the state rules on work breaks. They are intended to make sure that employers don't force hourly workers to work for long periods without a break. Current law requires that mandatory, unpaid, half-hour lunch breaks be given before the end of the sixth consecutive hour on the job.

Employers say they want to modify the overly rigid law to give them and employees needed flexibility to set schedules. They say they want to make it possible for staff members to eat a sandwich at their desks voluntarily or to keep waiting tables -- and earning tips -- during a busy time at a restaurant. Additionally, working through a lunch break could give employees the option of going home early, employers contend.

The article continues:

As for overtime, California law calls for time-and-one-half pay for hourly workers after they clock eight hours in a single day. Additionally, in California and other states, extra pay accrues on a weekly basis after a worker puts in 40 hours.

Employers say the law makes it more expensive and difficult for managers to let an employee juggle his or her schedule to take care of personal or family needs, business lobbyists say.

My prediction is that these regulations are not likely to change anytime soon.  However, history has proven that these items are politically charged.  The eight-hour work day was done away with in 1997 when California’s Industrial Welfare Commission overturned state regulations for overtime pay after eight hours worked in one day.  This change did not last long, and the eight-hour work day was reinstated in 1999 by Governor Grey Davis. 

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