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Are you compliant? California Meal Period and Agriculture

by Lisa Graystone

Posted on Thursday July 26, 2018, 12:30 pm

Technology is moving every industry forward at rapid pace, including the world of agriculture. There are many technology solutions that can help farmers and agriculture professionals efficiently run their businesses, save money, remain compliant with state laws and manage their employees. A new tech solution is the job tracking app, myEtimecard. This mobile solution can provide farmers with information about their diverse workforce at a glance. From their mobile device (iPhone or android) they can see where their employees are, manage meal periods, apply geofences to their work areas, remove the use of paper time cards and more. Also available from myEtimecard is a stand alone facial recognition kiosk, available to be used on a tablet (ipad), laptop or a stationary computer that has a webcam to check in and out of physical locations such as a dairy parlor. The app was created out of necessity by owners of a cleaning company. They did not know where their cleaners were and were vulnerable to meal period litigation. After using the app for their own company they realized quickly that their solution would be able to help the hard-working farmers and agriculture professionals of California with the same issues. Many ag employees are mobile and work at various locations throughout the farms, vast fields, dairy parlors or are mechanics for farm equipment which has them traveling from farm to farm. For this article I want to explore the benefits of this mobile app and California meal period compliance. When using paper time cards to track meal periods employers are vulnerable to a meal period violation lawsuit. There is nothing stopping an employee from manually falsifying a time card for not only time but for a meal/rest period. The state of California mandates, “an 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. Labor Code Section 512. With a paper time card this becomes a “he said, he said” or “He said, she said” situation essentially an employee’s word against an employer. With the myEtimecard solution the employee is tracked from the moment they punch into work on the app on their phone. Their physical location is digitally recorded into the system using GPS tracking that pings intermittently. The farmer can personalize a message to the employee and set a customized time in the app when the employee is notified of their upcoming meal period. For example, 20 minutes before the 5-hour mark of the shift the app can prompt and alert the employee that the meal period is approaching and give the employee time to potentially wrap up the task they are working on and prepare for their meal period.

The employees action, accepting the break (punching out) is recorded into the system, with location and time stamp for accurate record keeping.

This system of push notifications (prompting) helps both farmer and employee remain compliant with meal periods. In 2012 the supreme court ruled “employers are not required to “ensure” that 30-minute unpaid meal periods are in fact taken, but rather the meal periods must be “provided.” The Court clarified that to “provide” a meal period means that the employer must relieve employees of all duty, relinquish control over their activities and permit them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break(Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court 2012)” The myEtimecard app prompts your employee to the provision of their meal period based on the farmers customized timing and language. In the administrative panel of the app, the office manager, farmer and/or human resource professional with a few simple clicks can instantly see any potential meal period violations or issues and can manage them. At the end of each day they are highlighted in red and essentially flagged for office staff. Employees are prompted at the end of their shift to approve their time card and there is a text box for them to add comments. If a meal period was missed, not taken or they forgot to punch out they are able to explain in their own words for the employer’s records. Meal period violation lawsuits are sadly becoming more and more common in the state of California and in the agriculture industry specifically. I have spoken to several farmers who have had meal period class action lawsuits filed, some of which had to settle out of court for millions of dollars. Being educated on the law and ways to reduce vulnerability are the first steps to becoming and remaining complaint.

Do you know if your company is meal period compliant? Do you still use paper time cards? For more information on how myEtimecard can help your farm and/or agriculture related business with meal period and other employee management issues visit: