California Supreme Court Ends Rounding of Meal and Rest Periods
On February 25, 2021, the California Supreme Court overturned an appellate court’s conclusion that employers could follow precedent and round meal and rest periods when applying a neutral rounding technique. Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC, S253677. The California Supreme Court held that rounding time at the meal period is not proper. This dramatic ruling concluded that an employer’s rounding up a shortened meal period through a clock mechanism effectually deprived employees of premium pay which could not be reconciled against additional minutes even when rounding resulted in additional compensation for time off.
The California Supreme Court further held that time records that show non-compliant meal periods automatically raise a rebuttable presumption that the meal periods were not provided in compliance with applicable law, shifting the burden to the employer to rebut the presumption with admissible evidence.
While the Court lamented that shortening meal periods could exacerbate risks of stress and fatigue, the Court remanded the case to take evidence as to whether employees voluntarily shortened their breaks. Thus, California employers still have hope that evidence of employees voluntarily shortening break periods will create defenses against meal period (and rest period) premium cases.
Meanwhile, employers should buckle down and ensure that any clocked meal or rest periods are accurately measured and California employers that are using rounding practices for meal period calculations should immediately seek legal advice in light of this opinion.