FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
IR #2005-16
Wednesday, April 6, 2005

CONTACT:
Dean Fryer
Dept. of Industrial Relations
415-703-5050

Jehan Flagg
Director, Communications
(916) 327-9064


Meal and rest period proposed regulations revised by DIR based on public comments

San Francisco--The proposed meal and rest period regulations were revised to better meet the needs of those they apply to and were posted today on the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) website for public viewing. In addition, letters were sent to those who submitted written comments thanking them for their input, informing them of the revisions to the proposed regulations, and outlining the 15-day comment period beginning Thursday for further feedback from the interested public.

Three public hearings were held throughout California in February and March of this year asking for comments regarding the proposed meal and rest period regulations. Over 4,000 written responses were submitted, running four-to-one in favor of the proposed regulations, and supporting that workers have more flexibility to decide when to take their meal break. "While some employers submitted written comments, most of the responses came from workers and the industries represented included healthcare, food service, hotel, auto, and printing, among others," said John Rea, Acting Director of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), under which DLSE falls.

The revised proposed meal and rest period regulations include language which specifies that agricultural workers are not affected by the new regulations as stated in Labor Code section 554(a); strengthens employees' rights to take a meal period; and protects employees from retaliation for exercising this right. Furthermore, the revised language states that not only does an employer have to keep accurate time records to prove that workers have taken their meal periods, but has to provide employees with a meal period, and that even though an employer can prove a meal period has been taken an employer is not off the hook for not maintaining accurate time records.

"We're making sure the regulations are clear so employers understand that their workers have a right to a meal period, have a right to take it, and that employers have to keep track of both," said Rea.

Other areas that were clarified include defining a work period to mean when an employee begins work and stops for the day.

DLSE submitted proposed regulations last December to address the subtle change of intent contained in the language AB 60 from that of language contained in the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) orders. AB 60 was signed into law in 1999, but without specific regulatory implementation. Several of the IWC orders contained language that required employers to ensure that workers actually took 30-minute meal periods. Under the provisions of AB 60, employers must simply provide the opportunity for a 30-minute lunch period. The subtle change in the language has caused serious confusion among both employers and workers in California and has resulted in enforcement difficulties for DLSE.

"We set out to bring clarity to the meal period issue for employers, and to give workers the flexibility they want and need to better manage their lives," added Rea

To view the revised proposed meal and rest period regulations, please visit www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/mrpregs.htm.

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