In February 2021, California’s Supreme Court clarified details around meal breaks for non-exempt employees. In particular, the court ruling states rounding time for meal breaks are not allowed by employers.

The goal of the ruling is to ensure that employees receive their entitled 30-minute meal break, and the rounding of timecards can infringe on the allotted 30 minutes.

As stated in the ruling, “We hold that employers cannot engage in the practice of rounding time punches — that is, adjusting the hours that an employee has actually worked to the nearest preset time increment — in the meal period context.”

Two instances came to light when looking at rounding of time and compliance to California Law.  The ruling states, “Each meal period must be not less than 30 minutes, and no employee shall work more than five hours per day without being provided with a meal period.”  Any violation of this law requires companies to give ‘premium pay’ of one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each workday that the meal period is not provided — regardless of the extent of the violation.  In other words, whether an employer provides a shortened meal period or no meal period at all, the employee receives one additional hour of pay.

In this complaint, the employer rounded time punches to the nearest 10-minute increment. For example, if an employee clocked out for lunch at 11:02 AM and clocked in after lunch at 11:25 AM, the company records the time punches as 11:00 AM and 11:30 AM. Although the actual meal period was 23 minutes, the company records the meal period as 30 minutes.  Similarly, if an employee clocked in for work at 6:59 AM and clocked out for lunch at 12:04 PM, the company rounds the time punches to 7:00 AM and 12:00 PM. In this case, the actual meal period started after five hours and five minutes of work, but the company records the meal period as starting after exactly five hours of work.  The California Supreme Court ruled, “The practice of rounding time punches for meal periods is inconsistent with the purpose of the [California] Labor Code provisions.”

How Can We Help?

Time Equipment Company can provide a variety of options to help you stay in compliance with these types of Labor Laws.  Our system can flag violations of the short 30-minute meal period requirement and apply the proper premium pay accordingly.  In addition, our system, when needed, can ‘lock out’ an employee from clocking in early from lunch so they must take the full, appropriate meal period.

For more information on compliance with rounding time, contact Time Equipment Company at or 800-997-8463.