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Mandated Break Periods for Direct Patient Care Employees; a Proposed Change to the California Labor Code

August 25, 2022 | Employment Law

Meal and rest periods are essential worker protections that reduce accidents, improve productivity, and promote employee wellbeing. In the health care sector, fatigue can adversely impact patient care and meal and rest periods are important to ensuring quality care.


Private sector hospital employees who provide direct patient care in acute care hospitals are guaranteed meal and rest periods and a remedy of one-hour premium pay for missed meal periods and rest breaks while such employees in the public sector lack these basic protections, even though they perform the same duties.


A bill will be read in the state senate this week that proposes adding Section 512.1 to the Labor Code which will require state, political subdivisions of the state, counties, municipalities, and the Regents of the University of California to provide the same meal and rest periods. If the employee is required to work through a meal period, the same remedy will apply; the employee will be paid a full hour of their compensation rate for each break missed for each workday a meal or rest break is missed.


This will provide patients with consistency of care across private and public medical entities while promoting employee wellbeing.


Currently, hospital, clinic and public health employees working more than 5 hours per day providing direct patient care receive a 30-minute meal/rest period. Existing law prevents the employer from requiring the employee to work through their meal or rest period. If an employer fails to provide a 30-minute meal/rest break for employees working over 5 hours the employer is required to pay the employee an additional hour of pay at their current rate of compensation. The proposed act will add a second unpaid 30-minute meal period or rest break for employees working over 10 hours and would entitle these employees to a rest period based on the total hours worked daily at the rate of 10-minutes net rest time per 4 hours.


The bill exempts employees that are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that addresses meal periods and/or rest breaks.


If you provide direct patient care and your employer has required you to work through your break, contact our experienced attorneys to collect the lost wages and damages you deserve.