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YOU CANNOT COMBINE REST PERIODS!

For some time now we have been advising our clients that they must separate 10 minute rest periods into each half of the day as per the wage orders.  Now there has been the first court trial after the Brinker decision to address the issue of combined rest periods.  Below is an edited version of an article from HRCalifornia white paper sponsored by the California Chamber of Commerce.  There is contact information on the bottom if you wish to read the full account but the important information is here:

California Court Affirms Rest Break Timing Requirement

A California court recently affirmed that, in general, rest breaks cannot be combined (Rodriguez v. E.M.E., Inc., 2016 WL 1613803 (2016)).

Relying on the California Supreme Court’s guidance in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, the appellate court ruled in Rodriguez that “rest breaks in an eight hour shift should fall on either side of the meal break, absent factors rendering such scheduling impracticable.” The court acknowledged that unusual or exceptional circumstances may permit variation from the norm.

The Rodriguez case is one of the first since Brinker to expand on the issue of rest-break timing. In Rodriguez, the court ruled that whether the company can show that unusual circumstances justify its practice of combining rest breaks into a single 20-minute break before the meal period is an issue that cannot be decided on a motion to eliminate the case before trial (known as a motion for summary judgment).

The Rodriguez court remanded the case to a lower court so the issue can go before a jury.

General Guidance

The court relied on the Wage Orders, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement opinions and the Brinker decision to reaffirm the general rule that rest periods should fall in the middle of work periods and separated by the meal break “insofar as practicable” — which the court interpreted to mean “to the extent feasible.”

Following the Brinker guidance, the timing of such breaks in an eight-hour shift is that one rest break should fall on either side of the meal break.

Limited Departure From the General Rule

Now we know the general rule. But when is a departure from the permissible schedule allowed? According to the Rodriguez court, a departure from the general rule is allowed only if the departure can meet the following two-prong test:

1.   The departure will not unduly affect employee welfare; and
2.  The departure is tailored to alleviate a material burden that would be imposed on the employer by implementing the preferred schedule.

A departure from the preferred schedule that is “merely advantageous” to the employer will not meet the above test. Instead, the employer must show that the preferred schedule imposes a material burden and that departure from the norm is necessary to alleviate that burden.

In coming up with this rule, the court noted that the overall intent of California’s Wage Orders is to protect employee health and welfare.

Combined Breaks

The court also rejected the notion that employers are allowed to combine rest breaks, as the company in this case did. Again, the court reiterated the preferred schedule of one rest break on each side of a meal break.

A company has no right to combine rest breaks as a matter of law.

However, unusual or exceptional circumstances may permit a combined rest break. The court noted that there was only one circumstance that the former Industrial Welfare Commission had discussed allowing a combined rest break: where the business requires shifts in which the meal period occurs soon after the employee reports to work. The Rodriguez court noted that those facts were not before it.

Note: Employers are advised to consult legal counsel if they think they have a situation that allows them to depart from the general rule of a rest break on each side of a meal break.

Question for a Jury

In this particular case, the employer submitted declarations from employees that the combined rest break wasn’t harmful to them and that they preferred it.

The company also submitted evidence that the combined rest break was necessary because the nature of the production process meant that the employees needed a long time to prepare for the break and also time to resume activities after break. The company claimed that a departure from the preferred rest break schedule enabled the company to avoid material economic losses due to lost production time preparing for breaks and resuming activities after.

However, the employee who brought the case submitted his own declaration claiming that employees lost little or no work time in taking breaks, countering the argument that employees following the preferred break schedule would place a material burden on the company. Because of this declaration, the employer was not able to get rid of the case before trial, and further proceedings will be necessary.

This case has now been remanded, and we will see if the employer can prove that its departure from the general rule was justified. Or the case may be appealed to California’s Supreme Court. In the meantime, this published decision is good law.

Best Practices
Comply with break timing requirements. Provide the preferred schedule of one rest break falling in the middle of the work period before the meal period and one rest break falling in the middle of the work period after the meal period.
If you think your company has unique burdensome circumstances that would allow you to depart from the preferred schedule, consult legal counsel. It can’t be stressed enough: meal and rest break claims continue to be a source of costly litigation, penalties and fines.
Review your policies to make sure they are compliant with the preferred rest break timing.
Educate managers about their obligations relating to meal and rest periods and discipline managers who do not follow policy.
You may use this contact for more information from the California Chamber of Commerce Services: hrcalifornia.service@calchamber.com

Starting July 1, 2015, Obamacare will punish businesses who help employees with health care

Blog writer’s note: The following is an article Posted By Eric Boehm On July 1, 2015 @ 4:00 am at Watchdog.org.  More information can be obtained at the end of this article. While this article may affect some of our readers, we caution you not to overreact to its contents. Instead, we suggest you contact your tax professional or accountant to inquire about your possible exposure to this issue.

By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org

Employers who reimburse their workers for health care costs will face massive tax penalties beginning Wednesday.

Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, with its mandate that all Americans purchase insurance and requirement for businesses to offer employees insurance plans, many small companies provided coverage by directly reimbursing medical costs or for the cost of private insurance plans. Businesses do it because that’s a less complicated process than dealing with an official health insurance plan, but continuing to do so after July 1 could cost them hundreds of dollars in fines each day.

IF YOU LIKE YOUR INSURANCE…: Businesses that offer reimbursement for health care costs could face massive IRS penalties beginning on Wednesday. Business groups say many small businesses might be unaware of the risk.

Business groups are calling attention to what they say is an obscure part of Obamacare that could crush small businesses who are unaware of it.

“It’s the biggest penalty that no one is talking about,” said Kevin Kuhlman, policy director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, on Tuesday.

The penalties will only affect businesses with less than 50 employees. Those with more than 50 employees are already required to offer a health insurance plan.

The new rule is the result of an Internal Revenue Service interpretation of part of the ACA. It seems intended to force employers to offer a group health insurance plan (or leave their employees to fend for themselves on the health insurance exchanges).

The IRS says those reimbursements — technically known as “employer payment plans” [2] — are “considered to be group health plans subject to the market reforms, including the prohibition on annual limits for essential health benefits and the requirement to provide certain preventive care without cost sharing.”

The end result?

“Such an arrangement fails to satisfy the market reforms and may be subject to a $100/day excise tax per applicable employee (which is $36,500 per year, per employee) under section 4980D of the Internal Revenue Code [3],” according to the taxmen.

Business groups say the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

Even though the total fine is capped at $500,000 per year, that’s still miles ahead of the $2,000 fine that could be waiting for larger companies (those with more than 50 employees) that fail to comply with the individual mandate part of the ACA.

The NFIB says 14 percent of their members do not provide health insurance plans, but instead offer reimbursement.

The owner of a Minnesota-based company with 17 employees told NFIB [4] the new rules would require health benefits to go through the payroll process. That means it is subject to taxes, which reduces employees’ benefits and increases the business’ costs.

“Reimbursing employees for the cost of insurance or medical services is a way for small businesses to help their workers without the administrative headache of setting up a costly group plan,” said Kuhlman. “Most small employers don’t have HR departments or benefits specialists, so this is a simpler, easier way to help their employees.”

The prohibition on employer reimbursement was supposed to start last year, but the IRS postponed implementing it until July 1.

There has been bipartisan support [5] in Congress [6] for eliminating the harsh penalty on small businesses, but bills have not advanced.

“This would be devastating to small businesses and impose hardships on their employees,” said U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in January, referring to the potential $100-per-employee-per-day fine. “Congress has to fix this problem. [7]”

Note from HR Mobile Services, Inc.

Article printed from Watchdog.org: https://watchdog.org  If you would like more information about this organization or about the author or article, please visit their website .

 

URL to article: https://watchdog.org/226796/obamacare-punishes-small-businesses/

ObamaCare required Notification

On Friday, we mailed to all of our HR customers, a letter describing your responsibilities to notify your employees about insurance coverage. Basically, by October 1, you must notify all employees using a form we included in the mailing. There are 2 types of forms. One tells they that you do not provide approved health insurance and that they will need to go out on the market exchange to get their coverage. The other form tells them that you do offer insurance that is approved under the regulations. It requires a little more information.
Both forms are in Spanish or English and the easiest method of distribution is to attach a copy to each employee’s next paycheck.

Also required, if you offer health insurance, you should contact your insurance agent. They must supply you with a one page plan summary. This summary tells employees the basics of your insurance plan and meets the ERISA requirement of ObamaCare. We will also need a copy of this letter so we can add it to your employee packets for all new hired employees from now on.

Please open the envelope when it arrives in the next couple of days and read the material. If you have any questions, please contact us so we can help you through this process.