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Employment Law/Robo-clocking

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Question
My employer has our time clock set up to automatically clock us out for lunch after 4 hours on the clock, then clock us back in 30 minutes later. We were told that they must be able to prove that we've been provided with a meal break. Is either of these points legal/legitimate?
Thanks for any help you can provide,
Mary

Answer
Mary - In California, employers have to provide a lunch break for employees, so that part is true.  The part that is more questionable is the claim that having automatic time-outs will prove that you've had a lunch break.  It only works if it actually reflects your time off the clock.  If you're still at your desk working, it doesn't prove anything.  There have been multiple successful lawsuits against employers for this very practice, and the smart ones have removed the automatic feature from their time clock in favor of employees clocking out when they go on break.  Employers can make it a disciplinary matter if employees fail to take a lunch break within a certain time frame, to protect themselves from litigation.  While often employees want to skip the lunch break and leave early, the regulations in California make that a nonstarter for California employers and employees.  

Does that help?

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Margaret M. deMarteleire

Expertise

I can answer most questions about employment law, federal or state. I am an attorney, not an HR professional, so questions about HR careers, coursework, prospects, etc. are not within my scope.

Experience

Attorney for 20 years, currently working exclusively with employment law - FLSA, FMLA, federal contracts, pay, etc.

Education/Credentials
Temple University School of Liberal Arts, BA, Rhetoric & Communication, 1982 Temple University School of Law, JD, 1990 Certificate in HR, Cornell University ILR School, 2006

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