Time and Attendance and California Labor Rules

Posted by Pacific Timesheet on Jan 26, 2010 6:51:00 AM

bearflagTime and attendance systems and California meal penalty and split shift premium rules.

An important part of doing business in the state of California as a medium or large-sized organization is complying with somewhat complicated wage laws. Among the most difficult, from a tracking perspective, are the so-called "missed meal penalty" and the "split-shift premium" rules.

The missed meal penalty is granted as one hour of regular time pay to an employee who has missed a meal break after five hours of work. According to the California Labor Code, "In California, an employer may not employ an employee for a work period of more than five hours per day without providing the employee with a meal period of not less than thirty minutes, except that if the total work period per day of the employee is no more than six hours, the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of both the employer and employee. A second meal period of not less than thirty minutes is required if an employee works more than ten hours per day, except that if the total hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and employee only if the first meal period was not waived."

There are a few friction points created by the California meal penalty rule:

  1. Employee Waivers -  In each case of the waiver option, an employer must get an employee to sign a waiver form and the employer needs to maintain records of each waiver. In addition, employers must manage these employees' meal break activities using a modified set of rules.
  2. Legal Interpretation/Changing Case Law - Complications can arise with the meal penalty rule because of frequent changes due to active case law from employee and employer legal challenges in the courts. Accordingly, different legal counsel might provide alternative legal interpretations of California meal penalty rules based upon their concerns when providing advice to employers.
  3. Ad Hoc Penalty Waivers or Overrides - The reality of time and attendance is that employees can forget to punch out for lunch, yet a meal penalty might be automatically recorded for payment. There is a need for supervisors to waive or override these meal penalties when they are in error, but comments for the override must be recorded in each case to protect the employee and the employer.
  4. Type of Penalty Payment - A minor but still important difference between employers is the unit of payment that is recorded for payroll processing. The most common options needed are to support a penalty dollar amount or one hour of regular time.     

The split-shift premium is paid, using a minimum wage formula, when a worker is required to have an hour or more of non-paid break time Pacific Timesheet has significantly enhanced its support for California labor rules such as meal penalty rules and split shift premium rules.

The challenge of complying with California labor laws is not just how they are defined today. Ongoing cases each year have made complying somewhat of a moving target. Any solution needs to be configurable for all variables, allowing some organizations the flexibility they might need to support one interpretation or another. 

The task of track time and attendance, meal breaks, split shifts and the resulting penalties and premiums from employee meal break behavior and work schedules is rather onerous for a paper-based or excel-based system to handle. Pacific Timesheet web-based time and attendance provides paperless support for multiple rule combinations, for example, allowing separate rules for employees who sign a meal penalty waiver and others for those who do not. We also allow customers to easily modify their rule configurations over time as changing circumstances might require. We also allow for supervisor's to override individual meal penalties or split shift premiums with a detailed comment. In the end, all transactions are audited in detail, providing maximum protection for employees and employers.

Topics: split shift premium, timesheet, Timesheet Software, SaaS Timesheet, Time and Attendance Software, California rules, meal penalty

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