Q: If an employer doesn't let the employee take her lunch, doesn't it owe her overtime for that missed lunch break?
A: California's overtime and meal period laws imposed entirely separate obligations to the employer. A missed meal period does not necessarily mean the employer owes overtime. There are times when that is the case, however. For example, if the employer had the employee clock out for the meal period, but the employer was required to work during the meal period, and also worked 8 hours on the clock that day. In that example, the employee's meal period should count as hours worked, and since the additional time makes the employee's workday exceed 8 hour, and the additional time should be paid at one and a half times the employee's regular rate of pay.
Independent of the overtime issue, however, an employer who causes an employee to miss a required meal period will owe the employee an extra hour of pay at the employee's regular rate, pursuant to Labor Code § 226.7.
Under Labor Code § 512, the employer may not employ an employee for a work period of more than five hours per day without providing the employee with a meal period of not less than thirty minutes, except that if the total work period per day of the employee is no more than six hours, the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of both the employer and employee.
A second meal period of not less than thirty minutes is required if an employee works more than ten hours per day, except that if the total hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and employee only if the first meal period was not waived.
If the employer requires the employee to remain on premises during the meal period, it must be a paid meal period, whether or not the employee is relieved of all duties during the meal period. Bono Enterprises, In. v. Bradshaw (1995) 32 Cal.App.4th 968.