Jul 26, 2014
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Workers Responsible for Taking Breaks, Court Rules

The California Supreme Court says that employers are not obligated to ensure staff take their mandated breaks. Workers argue that abuse is rampant. What do you think?

Workers Responsible for Taking Breaks, Court Rules

Imagine a packed coffee shop with a long line. Three staff members are bustling behind the counter and serving customers. One them is owed a break, right now, just as another five people walk through the door.

Who is responsible for making sure that the worker takes his or her break? Well, according to a California Supreme Court ruling Thursday on mandated labor breaks, the employee is the one who has to rally for a rest. Although an employer must allow for mandated lunch and rest breaks, the boss is not obligated to order staff to take them.

But workers say that this poses a problem when leaving for a break would cause an inconvenience to co-workers and managers alike, such as during the 8 a.m. coffee rush. As a courtesy to colleagues, and to get in the boss's good books, employees might take their breaks early, late or not at all.

California labor law requires workers to take paid rest breaks of at least 10 consecutive minutes for each four hours worked, as close to the middle of a shift as possible. For a shift over five hours in a day, employees are entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes, which, however, workers can choose to waive as long as they don't work more than six hours in the workday. 

As an employee, have you ever experienced not being able to take your mandated breaks? As an employer, what are the challenges of scheduling breaks? Who should take responsibility?

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