CDA reminds dentist employers of the importance of meal and rest breaks

Download CDA’s new printable sign to remind employees of meal and rest break requirements.

January 25, 2023
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When it comes to compliance with employment laws, the most frequently misunderstood regulations in California’s dental practices are those regarding meal and rest breaks.

The California Department of Industrial Relations has very specific guidelines for following the laws that regulate wages, hours and working conditions. These include allowing designated times for hourly employees to have respite from the workday in the form of scheduled meal and rest times. Recently, California clarified that employers who fail to comply with rest breaks must provide monetary compensation.

As of May 23, 2022, the Supreme Court of California held in the case Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc. that employers must treat premium pay for noncompliant meal periods and rest breaks like wages. As a result, California employers may now face substantial penalties if they are found in violation of wage laws for failing to provide timely premium pay compensation for missed meal and break times.

A brief explanation of this regulation is that employees are owed “premium pay” when they miss a meal break or a rest break. Labor Code section 226.7 provides that if an employer fails to provide a meal, rest or recovery period, the employer must pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee's regular rate of compensation for each workday that the meal or rest break is not provided.

CDA encourages its members to take a proactive approach to employee meal and rest break compliance. Doing so requires an understanding of the regulations involved and communicating with employees about them. Here are some resources available to ensure your practice achieves compliance.

  • Familiarize yourself with the meal and rest break laws. CDA members can log in to access a simplified, easy-to-follow version of California’s meal and rest break requirements with a sample policy for reference.
  • The law states that it is the responsibility of employers to communicate meal and rest break laws to employees in writing. This is best achieved by including the information in your practice’s employee manual. CDA provides a wealth of employee manual resources, including sample manuals and a tool that assists with drafting a practice meal and rest break policy. Log in to access these valuable member benefits.
  • Demonstrate your practice’s adherence to meal and rest break standards by posting information about them for employee reference. An employee breakroom or other areas where employees are most likely to congregate are ideal locations for sharing information about employees’ rights to have respite time. Log in to your CDA account to download a meal and rest break poster.
  • Allow time regularly during staff meetings to discuss any barriers to taking timely meal or rest breaks. Address any changes to scheduling or team cooperation that allow all team members to take their uninterrupted time.

Compliance with employment regulations is one way to mitigate risk in your dental practice. Overworked and overtired employees are prone to make mistakes or speak harshly to co-workers and patients. During this period of widespread labor shortages, treating staff members with fairness and respect is one way to ensure that you will be able to maintain them as long-term employees. Communicate your support for their use of daily respite with an accessible meal and rest break policy.

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