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June 3, 2022

California Supreme Court Rules That Meal and Rest Break Premiums Are Wages

On May 23, 2022, the California Supreme Court ruled that premium payments owed for meal and rest period violations constituted “wages” that employers must report on employee wage statements, and that employers are required to pay to employees in a timely manner upon separation of employment.
Home » News » California Supreme Court Rules That Meal and Rest Break Premiums Are Wages

Matthew Purushotham
Fri, 06/03/2022

On May 23, 2022, the California Supreme Court ruled that premium payments owed for meal and rest period violations constituted “wages” that employers must report on employee wage statements, and that employers are required to pay to employees in a timely manner upon separation of employment. The case, Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Systems, is a wage and hour class action alleging that an employer failed to provide proper meal breaks.

Under California law, employees are entitled to meal and rest breaks during the workday. When employers fail to provide such breaks, employees are entitled to an additional hour of wages for each missed break, paid at their regular rate. The Supreme Court concluded that these premium payments are “wages” and that employers are therefore subject to so-called “waiting time penalties” when they fail to include them in the employees’ final wages upon separation. Employees can receive their daily rate of pay for up to 30 days for each day the wages remain unpaid.

In addition, California employers are required to provide employees with wage statements that include their wages earned among other information. Employers that knowingly and intentionally fail to provide such wage statements are subject to an initial $50 penalty for the first pay period, and $100 for each additional pay period the employer fails to provide the statement (up to $4,000). Following the Naranjo ruling, employers who fail to include meal and rest period premium payments on employee wage statements will be subject to these penalties.

The Supreme Court also upheld the Court of Appeals’ ruling that prejudgment interest for unpaid premium wages for meal break violations accrued at a rate of seven percent.

MSE recently covered the California Court of Appeals ruling that underscored the right of employees to leave their employers’ premises during meal breaks, as well as a ruling requiring bonuses and other discretionary payments be included in meal and rest break premiums. MSE has recovered unpaid wages for workers in meal period cases under the FLSA, including cases involving Child Protective Specialists and FDNY Motor Vehicle Operators in New York City.

For more information on this and other common wage and hour violations, visit https://www.mselaborlaw.com/resources/common-violations. If you believe your employer has failed to properly compensate you, including failing to pay you time and one-half for hours worked over 40 in a workweek, contact MSE at info@mselaborlaw.com.

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When McGillivary Steele Elkin LLP decides to take your case, it is because we believe there is an unacceptable workplace violation that has negatively impacted you or resulted in your employer paying less than what the law requires and which we have a reasonable chance of remedying. We recognize that meritorious claims should not go unremedied because of the level of a person’s resources.

To ensure accessible and available legal representation for all our clients, MSE handles cases through different forms of fee arrangements, including contingency fees, hourly fees and fixed fees.

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