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Free California Meal Penalty Calculator

Calculate premiums for missed meal and rest breaks in California
min to read
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Not sure how to correctly calculate premiums for missed meals and rest breaks in California?

Our easy and convenient California meal penalty calculator will help you comply with state break laws and avoid penalties, potential lawsuits, and fines.

How to Use Timeero’s California Meal Penalty Calculator

Here’s a step-by-step guide to assist you in using our California Meal Penalty Calculator:

Step 1. Detail the Work Hours

Specify the total number of hours worked during the shift.

Step 2. Input Employee Information

Enter the employee's regular rate of pay, including the basic hourly rate and any additional earnings such as bonuses or commissions.

Step 3. Enter Time Spent on Breaks

Input the duration of meal and rest breaks taken during the shift (n minutes).

Step 4. Calculate

The calculator processes all data to determine the required durations for meal and rest breaks and calculates the meal premium owed for any missed rest and meal periods.

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How Is the California Meal Premium Calculated? 

If your employees skip, delay, or shorten their meal or rest breaks, you must compensate them with an additional hour of pay. This extra payment is commonly known as a meal penalty or premium pay.

The calculation of meal and rest break penalty is based on the employee's regular rate of compensation, not merely their base hourly rate. This includes all compensable work, such as hourly wages, salaries, commissions, and bonuses. 

For example, if an employee earns an hourly rate plus a weekly bonus, both must be considered when calculating the regular rate for meal premiums. 

This ensures that the compensation for missed breaks reflects the total earnings, not just the employee’s base pay.

PRO TIP: In California, an employee can receive up to two hours of premium pay per workday. In a single workday, if an employee misses both their meal break and two rest breaks, the employer would be required to pay two additional hours of pay at the employee’s regular rate.

You can find more information about this topic in our comprehensive Guide on California Meal Premium.

Basic California Meal Break Requirements

Under California employment law, employees are entitled to at least a 30-minute meal break for every 5 hours worked. 

Meal breaks are taken off the clock and unpaid. During breaks, you must relieve employees of all work-related duties and relinquish control over how and where they spend their time. 

An "on-duty" meal break is allowed only when the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all duties. These meal breaks must be agreed upon in writing and are paid.

Are you worried that your employees are skipping their breaks? It’s a ticking time bomb you can’t afford to ignore!

The Basic California Rest Break Requirements

As an employer in California, you must provide employees a 10-minute rest period for every four hours worked.   These breaks count as hours worked and must be paid at the employee's regular rate of pay. 

During 10-minute rest breaks, you must relieve your employees of all duties and release control over them. 

To protect your business from potential legal issues and financial setbacks, you must understand California meal and rest break requirements. Our complete Guide on California Break Law gives you all you need to navigate these rules confidently.

California Meal and Rest Breaks: Record-Keeping

In California, it's your responsibility as an employer to maintain minute by minute records of when employees begin and end their meal periods. This practice ensures you stay in compliance with the labor code.

Although California law does not require employers to keep records of rest breaks, maintaining records can help prove compliance with the labor code.

To easily keep track of employee meal and rest breaks, use Timeero’s California Break tracker.

timeero california break policy settings

You can set up California's breaks policy in the software and assign this rule to applicable employees.

timeero california breaks tracker

Employees can record and attest their meal and rest breaks with a single tap on their mobile device. 

timeero timesheet with signature

For additional safeguarding, you can ask your employees to sign off on their timesheets and verify their time, overtime, breaks, and mileage data.

timeero notifications

You no longer have to worry about your employees forgetting their breaks - Timeero is there to remind them!

Automatic break deductions and time-rounding are not permitted in California. Timeero is fully customizable to fit California regulations, so time rounding can easily be disabled.  

Practical Tips for Employers

  • Review and Update Policies. Regularly update your meal and rest break policies to align with the California Labor Code and other relevant laws. Find out what to include in your policy, or download a free policy template by checking out our California Meal Break Policy resource.
  • Educate Your Team. Ensure management and HR are well-versed in break policies and the importance of compliance.
  • Use Tools. Implement accurate California break tracking tools to audit your compliance and address any discrepancies proactively and regularly.
  • Communicate. Communicate clearly with your employees regarding their rights to breaks and how they are compensated if they are missed.

See the recording of our California Break Law compliance webinar and learn more practical tips from experts in this area!

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