Good morning Dennis,
I'm Doug, and I'm very sorry to hear of your situation. My goal is to provide you with excellent service today. It is unfortunate that employers do not always treat them employees fairly and equally. Those that do not exhibit poor management skills, and ultimately lose good employees based on their unfair practices.
CA law requires that employees working at least a five hour shift must be given a minimum of a 30 minute meal break. It is up to the employer whether the employee must punch out during that time.
Whether an employee is allowed to take a break of longer than 30 minutes is left up to the employer/supervisor. While there may be nothing in the employee handbook about meal breaks, that does not mean that a particular employer/supervisor may not impose rules concerning such breaks, so long as those rules incorporate the mandates of state law as regards XXXXX XXXXX minute period.
As for the memo you refer to, as it is in writing and has been disseminated to employees in the company, it has the effect of company policy---regardless of whether it is presently incorporated into the employee handbook.
I empathize with you, that you may be being singled out, and that all employees at your job are not treated the same. But the laws of the state of CA do not prohibit different rules for different employees---unless your discipline for taking a long lunch is directly related to your race, color, gender, ethnic or national origin, age, religion, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other personal characteristic protected by law. Such discrimination is illegal.
Absent proof of this illegal discrimination, the employment laws of CA do not provide a legal remedy to you based on your being disciplined---despite the fact that it is not fair to treat employees differently. The law does not go so far as to legislate fairness---except in very specific instances, and then it is to avoid illegal discrimination. I am sorry.
I wish you the best in 2013.
I understand that you may be disappointed by the Answer you received, as it was not particularly favorable to your situation. Had I been able to provide an Answer which might have given you a successful legal outcome, it would have been my pleasure to do so.
You may reply back to me using the Reply to Expert link if you have additional questions.
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