Long Lunches

“I have a couple of employees who like long lunches and sometimes take 2 hours. They still work 8 hours but do I need to let them continue this?”

Your HR Survival Tip

There are practical and legal issues to consider when looking at long lunch breaks. While California requires non-exempt (hourly) employees to take at least a 30-minute meal break, the state can frown on breaks of more than one hour.

You do not have to allow any longer than 30 minutes for meal breaks but consider allowing just slightly longer (35-45 minutes) simply because you need to make sure they take at least 30 minutes. It’s hard to take exactly 30 minutes every day unless you have a very rigid schedule.

On a practical side, even if the employees work 8 hours, do their 8 hours work for you? If your business hours are normally 8a-5p but these employees stay until 6p to make up for the long lunch, is that last hour as productive for the business? Probably not if there are no customers after closing or the employees they may need to interact with have left for the day.

On the legal side, if you require the employee to take more than one hour for a meal break because you actually need them to work that hour later, this is considered a split shift. California has a payroll calculation for split shifts. The cost of using split shifts is one additional hour of minimum wage each day it happens. However, the way it’s calculated may not cost you anything. California has you apply anything over minimum wage normally paid to the employee toward that split shift pay. For example, if the employee is making $19/hour and the minimum wage is $16, you have a $3/hour overage you can apply to that one hour of minimum wage due. In a normal 8-hour day, the employee making $16/hour will have an overage of $24 ($3 x 8 hours) so you have covered split shift pay.

Overall, it’s best to stick with a standard meal break period and have employees request the additional time off as they need or want it. You then have the opportunity to approve or deny the extra time based on the business needs that day. Remember, you’re the boss!

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