Brown paper sack

Why one employer in California will now fire you for working through your lunch break:

California has a crazy law that allows employees to collect substantial ex post facto compensation if they claim they were denied a 10 minute break every four hours or a thirty minute unpaid lunch break after five. Suffice it to say we have spent years honestly trying to comply with this law. The 10-minute break portion is less of a compliance hurdle, but the lunch break portion has caused us no end of trouble. Theoretically, under the law, the employee has a choice — work through lunch paid, eating at the job post (e.g. in a gatehouse of a campground) or leave the job post for 30 minutes for an unpaid lunch break. As background, every one of our employees have always begged to have the paid lunch because they are from a poorer area and need the extra 30 minutes of pay.

Unfortunately, it does not matter what preferences the employee expressed on the job site. In the future, the employee can go to the labor department and claim he or she did not get their break, and even if they did not want it at the time, and never complained to the employer about not getting it, the employer always, always, always loses a he-said-she-said disagreement in a California Court or review board.

Not that anyone cares, but I haven’t been paid for a lunch break in the last twenty-two years. I’ve worked through it now and then, but I’ve always made up for it the same day, and nobody says a word. Then again, I’m not in California anymore.


  1. Tatyana »

    5 September 2012 · 7:35 pm

    …and I have been an “exempt” employee for over15 yrs, which means, now, – unlimited hrs workweek (sometimes 60), no overtime pay, working through lunches as a routine, and sometimes had to come into the office on a weekend (if Monday happens to be a deadline) – all the while being paid below my level “before-recession”, and being happy to tears to have a job at all!

  2. CGHill »

    5 September 2012 · 9:10 pm

    Amazingly, I am still on the time clock. I’m guessing it’s cheaper for them to pay me for 48 hours a week than to divide this task among two people and let them loaf a few minutes a day.

  3. Roger Green »

    6 September 2012 · 4:40 am

    There are studies out there that suggest that person who works through lunch and never takes a vacation is damaging him or herself, and is therefore a drain on the company – came across it recently; wish I could put my hands on it…

  4. fillyjonk »

    6 September 2012 · 8:24 am

    While I often gripe about working through lunch (though doing so may mean fifteen less minutes of work at home in the evening), I’d be really steamed if I were MANDATED to take a set lunch break.

    I’d rather grade papers or prep for the next day’s classes during lunch, and spend maybe 10 minutes eating, than take an hour for lunch and have to stay 45 minutes later during the day, or bring more work home with me.

    I suppose it’s different if you’re a 9 to 5 person, but sometimes for college profs it gets a bit closer to 6(am) to 9(pm).

  5. nightfly »

    6 September 2012 · 10:55 pm

    Naturally, this rule implies that no worker is adult enough to make a choice that may feature some sort of sacrifice or mild unpleasantness.

    I am really souring on this whole concept of inverting all things adult and childlike: treating the mature and responsible like powerless victims or delicate creatures who must be protected forever from themselves; meanwhile bratty, fragile kids in grown-ups’ bodies get to Run All the Things, boss around anyone on whim, change or ignore any rule they find in the way at the moment, and face zero consequences.

    Seriously, forget ballots. These people need to be paddled, sat in time-out, and sent to bed without dessert for a month. Damn right the Sisko is angry.

  6. fillyjonk »

    7 September 2012 · 7:20 am

    Nightfly: THIS. So much THIS.

    And not just from government, though that seems to be the worst, lately. I have one or two higher-ups at work (thankfully, that I don’t interact with on a daily or even weekly basis) who cannot seem to understand that I have long since graduated from fourth grade. (And no, it’s not like I wear My Little Pony t-shirts in their presence or anything).

    Makes me blind with rage. The fastest way to make me really, really angry is to imply I’m not smart enough or mature enough to make good decisions.

RSS feed for comments on this post