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California law permits "on duty" lunch breaks
only when the following criteria are satisfied.
- the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all duties
- the parties agree in writing to the on-duty meal period and
- the employee is paid for the on-duty meal period.
Clearly, the nature of your work requires on-duty lunch breaks, so all an employer in your circumstance needs to do is obtain written agreement from the employees to on-duty lunches and be sure to pay the employees for that time.
As you may already know, CA employees are entitled to one 10 minutes paid break
for every 4 hours of work or major fraction thereof. (i.e., if the employee works a total shift length of 3 hours, they'd be entitled to one ten-minute break because that 3 hours is a "major fraction" of 4, but an employee who works a total shift length of 1.5 hours would not be entitled to any break because that is less than a major fraction of 4.)
With regard to rest breaks, unfortunately there is no "waiver" provision in the regulations. Thus, employers MUST "authorize and permit" employees to take such breaks and cannot penalize employees for so doing.
The best way to approach this sort of situation is to tell the employee they can take their break any time within the first four hours of their shift, and then again any time in the second four. If they happen to get "called to duty" during that time, they can "re-take" their break at any time.
Since you will not be there to supervise or ensure that breaks are actually being taken, it would be wise to have the employees sign a document each pay period
certifying that they took rest breaks in conformity with the law. That covers you in the event they claim they were never releived of their duties suffcient to take their breaks.
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to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.
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