I've worked at several companies that have not been paying the 1-hour of regular pay to employees if they miss their lunch period. During the transition from not taking break to taking breaks and changing the policies, we're trying to figure out how to position this to employees. It's been a struggle to just have employees take breaks and how will be continue to have them take breaks if they find out that they will get paid for not taking a break.

We're trying to find a way to position this to employees so that:

  1. They do not ask for compensation for all the missed breaks up until now
  2. They continue to take their meal breaks
  • 1
    Isn't it illegal in California to not take breaks/ lunch period if they are on hourly wages? My previous employer ensured they followed the break rules to the T and force people to take break and lunches without questions. If they violate that, they get written up and documented. citizensinformation.ie/en/employment/…
    – Isaiah3015
    Jul 27, 2017 at 20:36
  • Let's put the boot on the other foot for a bit. Consider this situation, the employees have been padding their hours, and claimed to be working for 9 hours when they actually worked only 8. Now they want to "transition" to a more "honest" time reporting, but should not face any consequences for the fudging done until now. Or to take another example, an employee has been "redirecting" company funds to his personal account, now he wants to stop doing that, but the employer should take no action against him for the fraud done until now.
    – Masked Man
    Aug 2, 2017 at 17:14

3 Answers 3


As for #1, there may be no way around it without breaking a few labor laws.

As for #2, start writing them up for missing their breaks and send them home early if they do.

Do both or people will game the system (Hey! I get to leave early if I skip lunch) or (Hey, I worked through lunch, I should get paid, it's not fair that you right me up and don't pay me, I still worked the hours)


You have two options. First if the labor law requires they be paid, then you must pay them for the past instances. Let them know how paying this impacts things you will be no longer be able to pay for such as conferences, new equipment, etc. Be very transparent on where the money to pay this came from.

Going forward, you can budget the money to pay this as part of their normal salary. Let them know there will be no salary increases next year (or whatever budget items you have to cut to make this work for your company) as you have to absorb this major change to your budget. Show them the budget calculation. Assume a low figure for the salary calc (and make sure they know you are low balling) but say 100 people who get paid an extra hour 5 days a week every week is a lot of money even if you lowball the per hour salary.

Or you can tell them specifically and in writing that the policy is that breaks will be taken unless approved in writing in advance by a manager. Then the first time after that someone works through a break without written approval, you write them up for insubordination and let them know that three strikes and they are out (i.e. fired). If you have an HR team, have them draft the policy as they should be aware of the legal requirements. If not have labor lawyer draft the policy. Do not write this policy without consultation with someone who is up on labor laws.

It is tough to have to be harsh, but this is a huge budgetary issue for you and it is something that warrants firing when they disregard your specific workplace rules on breaks. But don't make the threat unless you take action when someone defies the policy just as you would if they deliberately smashed some equipment or stole from the company. This is that level of serious. (It is stealing from the company to get unauthorized payments.) You will lose some people because they don't want to be adults. Fine, good riddance.

Further not taking breaks is counterproductive just like working overtime is. They actually get less work done over time because they are tired. Remind them of that.


At one California restaurant I worked at, we were told that we would only be eligible for the extra hour of pay if we missed our lunch break due to business needs (as determined by the Manager on Duty). If we missed our lunch break voluntarily without being asked to by a manager, then we would get written up instead.

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