Timing is Everything

“I thought I understood the timing for breaks, final checks, etc. but now I’m not so sure. What does California want?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Contrary to Federal law, California law is very specific when it comes to minutes and even seconds. They don’t vary, which helps, but you do need to understand the language.

Here are a few examples showing how detailed California can be:

  • Meal Breaks — If an employee is due a meal break, it must be at least 30 minutes in length and start within the first 5 hours of work. Within 5 hours means the employee must clock out for that meal break no later than 4 hours 59 minutes from when they clocked in. Once the clock hits that 5th hour, the meal break is considered late and you owe the employee one hour of premium pay that day for the late meal break.

  • Six-Hour Days — An employee does not need a meal break if they are working less than 6 hours that day. Again, this means they must clock out no later than 5 hours 59 minutes from when they clocked in. Once the clock hits 6 hours, you’ll owe one hour of premium pay for a missed meal break.

  • Paychecks — Paychecks must be received by the employee on the day you’ve set. This is written on the employment law poster and in the Wage Theft Notice employees receive. You can choose to either pay employees the business day before or the business day after holidays but you then stick to that policy going forward. Failure to pay an employee on time can easily result in a fine that is charged per employee per paycheck.

  • Final Paycheck with Notice — When you have at least 72 hours notice of someone quitting, you must provide their final paycheck on their last day of work… or continue paying their average earnings each additional day that goes by until they get that paycheck. Using direct deposit is not recommended because their final pay will usually end up late.

  • Final Paycheck without Notice — When an employee leaves the job abruptly, you have exactly 72 hours from the time the employee left to get a final paycheck in their hands. That’s not 3 business days, that’s 72 hours. Have a process in place that will allow you to quickly produce a final check.

  • After-Hours Texts, etc. — California’s Supreme Court decided employees in California must be paid for every second they are doing anything work-related. When you send a text, email, or voicemail to an hourly employee who isn’t working at that moment, be prepared to pay for that time. If checking what you sent causes the employee to go over their 8 hours, you’ll owe overtime.

An employee cannot legally waive their right to timely payments or money owed them so don’t assume you won’t get in trouble just because the employee said it was fine. Review your policies and practices and make sure your managers understand the importance of timing.

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