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FAQ ON PIECE RATE PAY AND PAY CALCULATIONS (AB 1513 and Labor Code 226.2)

Due to the continued interest and volume of calls we have received concerning piece-rate pay and how to properly follow the new laws, we are posting this information from the California Website.  You can read the full FAQ at https://www.dir.ca.gov/pieceratebackpayelection/AB_1513_FAQs.htm

You must list on  your paycheck stubs the piece-rate pay, the time and averaged pay rate for rest\recovery periods, and a third line for non-productive time.  Pay careful attention to the overtime provisions as well.

Here is the important information that you need.  Pay special attention to the area about calculating average pay:

Piece-Rate Compensation – Labor Code §226.2 (AB 1513)

Topics covered in this section

General information
Piece-Rate compensation and wage statement requirements effective January 1, 2016 and later
The affirmative defense provisions of Labor Code Section 226.2 (Relating to time periods prior to January 1, 2016)
Calculating and making back payments to employees and former employees for purposes of the affirmative defense
Employee claims about Piece-Rate compensation

General Information

Q. When does the law go into effect?

A. By operation of law, AB 1513 went into effect on January 1, 2016.

Q. What does AB 1513 do?

A. AB 1513 adds section 226.2 to the California Labor Code, which applies “for employees who are compensated on a piece-rate basis for any work performed during a pay period.”

In general terms, Labor Code section 226.2 does two things:

  1. It establishes compensation and wage statement requirements for rest and recovery periods and “other nonproductive time” for piece-rate employees going forward from the effective date of the statute.
  2. It establishes, for certain employers and under certain circumstances, an “affirmative defense” to any claim or cause of action for damages or statutory penalties based on an employer’s alleged failure to pay compensation due for rest and recovery periods and other nonproductive time for time periods prior to the effective date of the statute.

Q. What is piece-rate compensation?

A. Labor Code section 226.2 does not change the existing definition of what constitutes “piece-rate” compensation.

The existing Division of Labor Standards Enforcement Manual contains the following explanation of piece-rate compensation:

2.5.1 Piece-Rate or “Piece Work”

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the term piece-rate as: “Work paid for according to the number of units turned out.” Consequently, a piece-rate must be based upon an ascertainable figure paid for completing a particular task or making a particular piece of goods.

2.5.2 Examples of piece-rate plans can be as diverse as the following:

  1. Automobile mechanics paid on a “book rate” (i.e., brake job, one hour and fifty minutes, tune-up, one hour, etc.), usually based on the Chilton Manual or similar;
  2. Nurses paid on the basis of the number of procedures performed;
  3. Carpet layers paid by the yard of carpet laid;
  4. Technicians paid by the number of telephones installed;
  5. Factory workers paid by the widget completed;
  6. Carpenters paid by the linear foot on framing jobs.

2.5.3 A piece-rate plan of compensation may include a group of employees who share in the wage earned for completing the task or making the product.

2.5.5.1 Piece-rate and commission plans may be in addition to an hourly rate or a salary rate of pay. Such plans may also be in the alternative to a salary or hourly rate. As an example, compensation plans may include salary plus commission or piece-rate; or a base or guaranteed salary or commission or piece-rate whichever is greater.

(Reference: DLSE , pages 2-2 to 2-3.)

Q. Does the law apply to employees who work on a commission basis?

A. No, the law does not apply to employees who are compensated on a commission basis.

By its terms, Labor Code section 226.2 applies to “employees who are compensated on a piece-rate basis for any work performed during a pay period.” Note, however, that it is the nature of the compensation that is determinative, not the label.

Existing Labor Code section 204.1 defines “commission wages” as: “compensation paid to any person for services rendered in the sale of such employer’s property or services and based proportionately upon the amount or value thereof.”

(See also the Ramirez v. Yosemite Water Co. (1999) 20 Cal. 4th 785, 803 [“Although section 204.1 applies specifically to employees of vehicle dealers, both parties contend, and we agree, that the statute’s definition of ‘commission’ is more generally applicable.”].)

As the Supreme Court explained in the Ramirez case, quoting Keyes Motors, Inc. v. Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (1987) 197 Cal.App.3d 557, 563,

“. . . Labor Code section 204.1 sets up two requirements, both of which must be met before a compensation scheme is deemed to constitute “commission wages.” First, the employees must be involved principally in selling a product or service, not making the product or rendering the service. Second, the amount of their compensation must be a percent of the price of the product or service.’” (Ramirez, supra, 20 Cal. 4th at 803-04.)

The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement Manual contains the following language concerning the difference between piece-rate compensation and commission compensation:

2.5.4 Commission

Labor Code § 204.1 defines commissions as: “Compensation paid to any person for services rendered in the sale of such employer’s property or services and based proportionately upon the amount or value thereof.” Keyes Motors v. DLSE (1987) 197 Cal.App.3d 557.If the compensation is based on a percentage of a sale, the compensation plan is a commission. On the other hand, a compensation plan which pays employees for the number of pieces of goods finished, the number of appointments made or the number of procedures completed, is based on a piece-rate, not a commission rate; though such compensation plans often refer to the payment as “commission”.

2.5.4.1 Shared commissions

Again, as with a piece-rate plan, a commission plan may include a group of employees who share in the commissions earned. (For a detailed discussion of commissions refer to the DLSE Enforcement Manual, Section 34.)

Q. Does this statute change overtime compensation requirements?

A. Labor Code section 226.2 expressly states in the opening paragraph that it “shall not be construed to limit or alter minimum wage or overtime compensation requirements, or the obligation to compensate employees for all hours worked under any other statute or local ordinance.”

This means that in any workweek in which a piece-rate employee worked overtime hours, overtime compensation must be calculated and paid according to existing law.

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Piece-Rate compensation and wage statement requirements effective January 1, 2016 and later

Q. What are the compensation requirements for rest and recovery periods for piece-rate employees?

A. Labor Code section 226.2, subdivision (a), paragraphs (1) and (3) provide that:

  • Employees must be compensated for rest and recovery periods separate from any piece-rate compensation, and
  • The rate of compensation for rest and recovery periods shall be the higher of:
    • An average hourly rate determined by dividing the total compensation for the workweek, exclusive of compensation for rest and recovery periods and any premium compensation for overtime, by the total hours worked during the workweek, exclusive of rest and recovery periods.
    • The applicable minimum wage.

This means that piece-rate employees must be paid compensation for rest and recovery periods that is separatefrom their piece-rate compensation. An employer may not treat the piece-rate compensation as including compensation for rest and recovery periods, no matter how the piece-rate was determined.

The hourly rate of compensation for rest and recovery periods must be the same as the hourly rate (averaged over the workweek) that an employee earned during the workweek for time during which he or she was performing work. If, for some reason, this average hourly rate comes out to less than minimum wage, then the employee must be paid at minimum wage.

Q. How does an employer determine the average hourly rate to be paid for rest and recovery periods?

A. The formula for determining the average hourly rate to be paid for rest and recovery periods is set forth in the statute, as follows:

Divide the total compensation for the workweek, exclusive of compensation for rest and recovery periods and any premium compensation for overtime, by the total hours worked during the workweek, exclusive of rest and recovery periods.”

(Labor Code §226.2(a)(3)(i).)

The following are some examples of application of this formula.

Examples:

1. For a workweek of piece-rate compensation only:

  • A piece-rate employee works a 5-day, 40-hour workweek.
  • The employee has two 10-minute rest periods authorized and permitted per day, for a total of 100 minutes (1.67 hours) of rest periods for the workweek.
  • The employee earns $500 in piece-rate compensation for the workweek.
The average hourly rate to be paid for the rest periods for this employee is calculated as follows:
$500 total compensation not including compensation for the rest periods
÷ 38.33 total hours less rest periods
= $13.04/hr
x 1.67 hrs
rest periods for the workweek
= $21.78 compensation for rest periods for the workweek
Total compensation for the workweek:
$500 piece-rate compensation
+ $21.78 compensation for rest periods
= $521.78

2. For a workweek of piece-rate compensation and a base rate of minimum wage for all hours worked:

  • An employee works a 5-day, 40-hour workweek.
  • The employee has two 10-minute rest periods authorized and permitted per day, for a total of 100 minutes (1.67 hours) of rest periods for the workweek.
  • The employee is paid minimum wage ($10/hour) for all hours worked, including the two 10-minute rest periods, for a total of $400.
  • The employee also earns a total of $300 in piece-rate compensation for the workweek.
The average hourly rate to be paid for the rest periods for this employee is calculated as follows:
$683.30 Total compensation for the workweek, not including compensation for rest and recovery periods, which is the $300 in piece-rate compensation, plus the minimum wage paid for all hours worked except the 1.67 hours of rest period time
÷ 38.33 Total hours less rest periods
= $17.83/hour Note: $10/hour of this time is already calculated into and paid in the employee’s minimum wage of $10/hour for all hours worked, including the rest period time.

Therefore, the additional amount owed for rest periods under this example is $7.83/hour.

Total compensation for the workweek:
$400 Minimum wages for all hours worked, including the rest period time
+ Piece = rate compensation
+ $7.83 x 1.67 hours = Additional amount over minimum wage required to pay correct average hourly rate for rest periods

3. For a workweek with both piece-rate work and hourly work:

  • An employee works a 5-day, 40-hour workweek.
  • On two 8-hour days of this workweek (for a total of 16 hours), the employee works at an hourly rate of $10/hour, and does no piece-rate work.
  • On the other three days of the week (for a total of 24 hours), the employee does piece-rate work only and earns a total of $300 in piece-rate compensation.
  • On each day of the workweek, the employee has two 10-minute rest periods authorized and permitted, for a total of 100 minutes (1.67 hours) of rest periods for the workweek.
  • On the two hourly-work days, these rest periods are compensated at the $10 hourly wage.
The average hourly rate to be paid for the rest periods for this employee is calculated as follows:
$453.30 Total compensation for the workweek, not including compensation for rest and recovery periods, which is the $300 in piece-rate compensation, plus the $160 for hourly work, less $6.70, which is the compensation for the 40 minutes of rest and recovery periods on the two hourly-rate days.
÷ 38.33 Total hours, which is 40 hours less the 1.67 hours of rest period time
= $11.83/hour Note: For the days on which the employee worked at an hourly rate, $10/hour of this time is already been paid as part of the hourly rate. For those two days, the employee is owed only an additional $1.83/hour for the rest periods. For the days on which the employee did piece-rate work, the rate to be paid for the rest periods is $11.83.
Total compensation for the workweek:
$160 For the hourly rate worked on two days
+ $300 Piece-rate compensation
+ $1.83 x .67 hours = $1.23 The additional amount owed for the rest periods on the hourly rate days to bring them to the average hourly rate for the workweek.
= $473.06

4. For a workweek of piece-rate compensation and overtime hours:

  • An employee works a 6-day, 47-hour workweek, for which 7 hours constitute overtime.
  • The employee has two 10-minute rest periods authorized and permitted per day, for a total of 120 minutes (2.0 hours) of rest periods for the workweek.
  • The employee earns a total of $800 in piece-rate compensation for the workweek.
The average hourly rate to be paid for the rest periods for this employee is calculated as follows:
$800 Total compensation for the workweek, not including compensation for the rest and recovery periods or premium pay for overtime.
÷ 45 hours Total hours, not including the rest and recovery periods.
= $17.78/hour

x 2.0 hours

= $35.56

Compensation for rest and recovery periods for this workweek.
The overtime premium compensation for this employee is:
$800 Piece-rate compensation
+ $35.56 Compensation for rest and recovery periods
= $835.56
÷ 47 hours
= 17.78/hour Regular rate of pay
x .5
= $8.89 Premium pay due for overtime hours
x 7 hours Overtime hours
= $62.23
Total compensation for the workweek:
$800 Piece-rate compensation
+ $35.56 Compensation for rest and recovery periods
+ $62.23 Premium pay for overtime hours
= $897.79

Q. If an employer pays a base hourly rate for all hours worked (for example, minimum wage), but also pays additional piece-rate compensation, is it sufficient for the employer to just pay minimum wage for the employee’s rest breaks?

A. No. Going forward, the statute requires compensation at an average hourly rate determined by dividing total compensation by the total hours worked in the workweek, as explained above. This encourages employees to take their authorized rest breaks, without feeling that doing so will decrease their compensation.

Q. What types of compensation must be included in determining the average hourly rate to be paid for rest and recovery periods?

A. The statute says that the average hourly rate shall be “determined by dividing the total compensation for the workweek, exclusive of compensation for rest and recovery periods and any premium compensation for overtime, by the total hours worked during the workweek, exclusive of rest and recovery periods.”

As indicated above, the statute refers to “total compensation” for the workweek. This type of formula is similar to the manner in which employers are currently required to calculate a regular rate of pay for overtime compensation purposes. The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement Manual contains information on the types of compensation within a workweek that generally must be included for this purpose and those that are not. (See DLSE Manual, §49.1 to 49.1.2.3 (items to be included) and §49.1.2.4 (types of compensation not included.)

Q. What are “rest and recovery periods”, as referred to in the statute?

A. Labor Code section 226.2 does not change the definition for rest and recovery periods. Those terms have the same meaning as they do under existing law.

“Rest” periods are defined and required under a number of existing wage orders. For example, existing Wage Order 1 (Manufacturing Industry) contains the following provision regarding rest periods:

12. Rest Periods

A. Every employer shall authorize and permit all employees to take rest periods, which insofar as practicable shall be in the middle of each work period. The authorized rest period time shall be based on the total hours worked daily at the rate of ten (10) minutes net rest time per four (4) hours or major fraction thereof. However, a rest period need not be authorized for employees whose total daily work time is less than three and one-half (3 1/2) hours. Authorized rest period time shall be counted as hours worked for which there shall be no deduction from wages.

B. If an employer fails to provide an employee a rest period in accordance with the applicable provisions of this order, the employer shall pay the employee one (1) hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each work day that the rest period is not provided.

(Wage Order 1, ¶12, 8 CCR section 11010.)

Most of the existing wage orders contain similar, or identical, provisions on rest periods.

Existing Labor Code section 226.7 defines a “recovery period” as “a cooldown period afforded an employee to prevent heat illness.”

Labor Code section 226.7 also provides that:

(b)   An employer shall not require an employee to work during a meal or rest or recovery period mandated pursuant to an applicable statute, or applicable regulation, standard, or order of the Industrial Welfare Commission, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, or the Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

In Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004, 1029, the California Supreme Court said the following concerning rest periods (applying Wage Order 5):

Employees are entitled to 10 minutes rest for shifts from three and one-half to six hours in length, 20 minutes for shifts of more than six hours up to 10 hours, 30 minutes for shifts of more than 10 hours up to 14 hours, and so on.

(Id. at 1029.) See also Brinker, supra, 53 Cal.4th at 1033 (“An employer is required to authorize and permit the amount of rest break time called for under the wage order for its industry.”)

Q. Does Labor Code section 226.2 mean that employers will need to track the number of minutes that employees actually take for their rest and recovery periods?

A. No. Section 226.2, subdivision (a)(2) requires that an employee’s itemized wage statement state “[t]he total hours of compensable rest and recovery periods, the rate of compensation, and the gross wages paid for those periods during the pay period.” (Emphasis added.)

If an employer has authorized and permitted two 10-minute rest periods during an employee’s work shift (see quote from Brinker above), the “compensable” rest and recovery periods are those that have been authorized and permitted according to existing law. That is the amount of time for which an employee must be compensated (i.e., the “compensable” period), and which must be itemized on the wage statement, regardless of whether the employee actually took only 8 minutes on one rest period (less than the amount of time that was “compensable”), or took 13 minutes on another rest period (more than the amount of time that was “compensable”).

Similarly, for recovery periods (“a cooldown period afforded an employee to prevent heat illness,” see Labor Code section 226.7), the employer will need to determine the amount of time that was “afforded” (i.e., authorized and permitted), which may depend on the circumstances. The amount of time that was afforded is the amount of time for which employees must be compensated (i.e., the “compensable” period) and which must be itemized on the wage statement.

Q. Why are there different rules for employers who pay on a semi-monthly basis?

A. Actually, the compensation requirements for rest and recovery periods are the same for all employers, including those that pay on a semi-monthly basis. For employers who pay on a semi-monthly basis, however, there is a provision that allows the employer to pay for rest and recovery periods at a rate of at least the minimum wage for the pay period in which the rest and recovery periods occurred, and then to “true up” the compensation owed (to pay “the additional compensation required”) applying the average hourly rate formula that is required and explained above, in the following pay period. This is because when a semi-monthly pay period ends in the middle of a workweek, it may not be possible to determine the “average hourly rate” for that workweek at the time the paycheck is issued for that payroll period.

This is consistent with existing rules in Labor Code section 204 that apply to employers who pay wages on a semi-monthly basis. That section provides, for example, that “all wages earned for labor in excess of the normal work period [e.g., overtime] shall be paid no later than the payday for the next regular payroll period.” (Labor Code §204(b)(1) (language in italics added).)

Q. What is “other nonproductive time”?

A. Labor Code section 226.2 defines “other nonproductive time” as “time under the employer’s control, exclusive of rest and recovery periods, that is not directly related to the activity being compensated on a piece-rate basis.”

What constitutes “other nonproductive time” under this definition will obviously vary depending upon the nature of the work and the “activity being compensated on a piece-rate basis.”

Q. What are the compensation requirements for other nonproductive time?

A. Labor Code section 226.2, subdivision (a)(1) and (a)(4) provide that:

  • Employees must be compensated for other nonproductive time separate from any piece-rate compensation, and
  • Employees must be compensated for other nonproductive time “at an hourly rate that is no less than the applicable minimum wage.

This means that piece-rate employees must be paid compensation for “other nonproductive time” that is separate from their piece-rate compensation. An employer may not treat the piece-rate compensation as including compensation for other nonproductive time, no matter how the piece-rate was determined.

The compensation requirement for other nonproductive time is simply that it be paid at an hourly rate of no less than the applicable minimum wage.

The statute also contains a kind of “safe harbor” provision in subdivision (a)(7), which states:

An employer, who in addition to paying any piece-rate compensation pays an hourly rate of at least the applicable minimum wage for all hours worked, shall be deemed in compliance with paragraph (4).

This means that if an employer pays a base hourly rate of at least the applicable minimum wage for all hours an employee works, in addition to any piece-rate compensation, the employer will be deemed in compliance with the compensation requirements for other nonproductive time.

Q. Does an employer need to track the amount of other nonproductive time worked by an employee who is compensated on a piece-rate basis?

A. It depends. If the employer utilizes the “safe harbor” option of subdivision (a)(7) (i.e., “in addition to paying any piece-rate compensation, pays an hourly rate of at least the applicable minimum wage for all hours worked”), then the compensation and wage statement requirements for other nonproductive time are satisfied, and the employer is not required to determine or to record the actual amount of hours worked in other nonproductive time. (See §226.2(a)(2)(B); (a)(4); (a)(7).)

If the employer does not use this “safe harbor” option of paying an hourly rate of at least minimum wage for all hours worked, then the amount of hours worked in other nonproductive time must be determined (§226.2(a)(5)), listed on the wage statement, (§226,2(a)(2)(B)), and compensated separately at an hourly rate of at least minimum wage (§226.2(a)(4)).

Subdivision (a)(5), however, provides that “[t]he amount of other nonproductive time may be determined either through actual records or the employer’s reasonable estimates, whether for a group of employees or for a particular employee, of other nonproductive time worked during the pay period.” (Labor Code §226.2(a)(5).) This allows employers the option of determining the amount of other nonproductive time worked based on a reasonable estimate, rather than actual tracking of time.

Subdivision (a)(6) further provides that:

An employer who is found to have made a good faith error in determining the total or estimated amount of other nonproductive time worked during the pay period shall remain liable for the payment of compensation for all hours worked in other nonproductive time, but shall not be liable for statutory civil penalties, including, but not limited to, penalties under Section 226.3, or liquidated damages based solely on that error, provided that both of the following are true:

A. The employer has provided the wage statement information required by subparagraph (B) of paragraph (2) and paid the compensation due for the amount of other nonproductive time determined by the employer in accordance with the requirements of paragraphs (4) and (5).

B. The total compensation paid for any day in the pay period is no less than what is due under the applicable minimum wage and any required overtime compensation.

In general terms, this means that if an employer makes a good faith error in determining the amount of other nonproductive time for a worker, whether determined through records or based on an estimate, in that the employee actually worked more other nonproductive time than was in the estimate or as otherwise determined by the employer, the employer remains liable to compensate the employee for all of the other nonproductive time the employee actually worked (at an hourly rate of at least minimum wage), but will not be liable for any statutory penalties.

This provision is subject to the two qualifications in subparagraphs (A) and (B), quoted above, including that the employer must have paid the employee at least minimum wage and any required overtime compensation on that minimum wage.

Q. Are there any wage statement requirements under this law?

A. Yes. Labor Code section 226.2, subdivision (a)(2) provides that:

The itemized statement required by subdivision (a) of [Labor Code] Section 226 shall, in addition to the other items specified in that subdivision, separately state the following, to which the provisions of Section 226 shall also be applicable:

  1. The total hours of compensable rest and recovery periods, the rate of compensation, and the gross wages paid for those periods during the pay period.
  2. Except for employers paying compensation for other nonproductive time in accordance with paragraph (7), the total hours of other nonproductive time, as determined under paragraph (5), the rate of compensation, and the gross wages paid for that time during the pay period.

As indicated in the language in italics above, an employer is not required to state the total hours of other nonproductive time, the rate of compensation, or the gross wages paid for that time, if the employer “in addition to paying any piece-rate compensation, pays an hourly rate of at least the applicable minimum wage for all hours worked,” as authorized by the “safe harbor” language in subdivision (a)(7).

The wage statement requirements should be read in tandem with the current requirement under section 226, subdivision (a), that an itemized wage statement show “all applicable hourly rates in effect during the pay period and the corresponding number of hours worked at each hourly rate by the employee…” (§226(a)(9)). To the extent there may be overlap between this provision and section 226.2(a)(2) going forward, the requirements will be harmonized. Employers will not be required to state the same information twice on the wage statement.

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

REST PERIOD BILL ON GOVERNOR’S DESK – AB 1513

SEE UPDATED INFORMATION DATED 1/24/2017

News came down yesterday that there has been negotiations going on between AG attorneys and the State regarding rest periods and employees who are paid by piece-rate, or truckers by the load. As we discussed before, you have to establish a pay rate for when an employee is supposed to take a paid rest break even if they are paid by the load. So the good news is there is some recognition of the problem and a partial solution is headed to the Governor’s desk, but it is several pages and I have not had a chance to digest it all yet. It is called AB 1513 (March 5, 2015). It actually is also combined with changes to Worker’s Compensation where you may also have a problem establishing the pay rate for people when they are injured and cannot work. How do you figure the rate of Disability compensation for piece rate or commission sales employees.

 

There is a lot of complicated language in the 7 page bill, but a couple of things I do see, includes a provision that you may pay employees for non-productive time at a rate of at least the minimum wage or an average of the money an employee earns in a work week divided by the number of hours worked, minus any time spent in non-productive time. It does say that you will need to have a better system for documenting non-productive and rest period time if you are paying that separately from an hourly worker. It will require that you show the amount of rest or cool-down time you are paying for on a separate line on the paycheck stub.

 

You can read more here: https://asmdc.org/members/a37/news-room/press-releases/piece-rate-worker-compensation-bill-to-governor-s-desk

 

As I said, I do not have any big answers right now and there is no guarantee it will be signed (though it is very likely).  Once it takes effect, we will have a little more clarity and I will be able to enlist the help of attorney’s.  Still, I thought it was important to bring to your attention.

NEW HEAT BREAK RULES SIGNED INTO LAW

Governor Brown of California signed SB435 into law effective next year.  It states that workers exposed to extreme heat must be granted cool-down periods during the work day.  If the employer does not provide such a cool-down period, they must pay the employee for an additional hour of work for each day the rest period is not provided. 

We are still awaiting the regulations surrounding this law.  Questions that arise include the definition of “extreme heat” and how the employer is to document that the employees took a cool-down rest period.

HR Mobile services will continue to monitor this new law and provide advise to our customers on how to best protect themselves.  We invite your questions and comments on this legislation.