SQUARE MEAL IS THE DEAL « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


California Supreme Court Prohibits Meal Break Time Rounding

The California Supreme Court has ruled that employers may not round worker time entries for meal breaks, in contrast to rules permitting rounding for start and end of workday time entries. Kennedy Donohue v. AMN Services, Inc. (Donohue) (February, 2021).

The Donohue Court observed that California and federal law permit employers to round an employee’s time entries at the beginning and end of a day if done by a fair and neutral method that will result in the employee being paid for all hours worked over a period of time.  Such rounding is permissible because “for purposes of calculating wages, counting slightly fewer minutes one day can be made up by counting a few more minutes another day.”

In contrast, the Court found that such rounding practices cannot apply to the 30-minute meal break required by Labor Code 512 and the Industrial Wage Orders before the end of five hours and the second meal break required before the end of 10 hours in a workday.

The Donohue Court concluded “the health and safety concerns underlying ‘meal period’ provisions distinguish the meal period context from the wage calculation context, in which the practice of rounding time punches was developed.”  Rounding meal time entries thwarts that health and safety purpose since “a shorter or delayed meal period one day cannot be offset by a longer or earlier meal period another day.”

In addition, rounding may deprive an employee from receiving the one-hour premium pay required under Labor Code 226.7 and the Wage Orders for missed, short or late meal periods.

Employers should eliminate rounding meal break times and consult with an employment attorney on any advisable remedial measures to address mistaken past practices.

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For further information, please contact Tim BowlesCindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Helena Kobrin
April 1, 2021