Governor Jerry Brown just signed AB 2610 (here) This is a law that modifies Labor Code section 512, which mandates the California meal periods.  Unfortunately, the new bill applies only to a very limited group of employers, as detailed below. And that means one thing:  most of you employers reading this need better lobbyists. 

Most employers must follow the general rule, set forth in section 512(a):

 An employer shall not employ an employee for a work period of more than five hours per day without providing the employee with a meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that if the total work period per day of the employee is no more than six hours, the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of both the employer and employee. An employer shall not employ an employee for a work period of more than 10 hours per day without providing the employee with a second meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that if the total hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee only if the first meal period was not waived.

The new provision applies only to “a commercial driver employed by a motor carrier transporting nutrients and byproducts from a commercial feed manufacturer subject to Section 15051 of the Food and Agricultural Code to a customer located in a remote rural location . . . ”  And for that type of driver, working for that kind of employer, the modified rule is this:

a commercial driver employed by a motor carrier transporting nutrients and byproducts from a commercial feed manufacturer subject to Section 15051 of the Food and Agricultural Code to a customer located in a remote rural location may commence a meal period after six hours of work, if the regular rate of pay of the driver is no less than one and one-half times the state minimum wage and the driver receives overtime compensation in accordance with Section 510.

Do you perceive a little pique in this post? Yes, a little. But why?  Well, the courts and plaintiffs’ bar have drilled into employers how a meal period must occur by the end of the 5th hour of work – not the 6th – in the name of worker well-being, safety, protection of the work force, etc.  Turns out, if you earn 1.5 times minimum wage and you get paid overtime (like most employees in California, and if you work in a certain industry (but only in a certain job), well then a meal after six hours isn’t gonna kill you.  

Would other employees in most industries  agree with this premise?  If this law applied to all employers, it would make scheduling easier and might result in fewer penalties.  But that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Just make sure the crumbling cookie is available before the 5th hour, unless an exception applies.  

So, there you have it. Have a nice weekend.

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