Jump to content

California's 5 Hour Lunch Rule

Posted

Hello Fellow nurses from California,

I have a question. There is an issue going on in my hospital at the moment and I wanted to find out how you guys were handling it in your facilities.

There is a labor law in California which states an employee must take their meal break (30 minutes) before the end of the 5th hour of work.

Are you guys following that rule in your hospitals. What is happening at my hospital is the following:

They are asking all nurses to start their breaks as early as 9am or 9pm. We all know that is almost impossible to take a lunch in the first four hours of work. That is when assessments, meds, admissions, and treatments happen.

In some instances, we have been told to start taking our breaks at 0730... which is absurd. We haven't even assessed our patients by then.

As an example, we have a unit that has a core of 8 nurses. that is four hours of lunch breaks, we have no choice to start breaks at 0730 or 0800. Management and HR is telling us that we can voluntarily decline to take a lunch that early (and put it in writing), but that means you have the chance of not taking a lunch break at all if it get's busy. But hey... that's ok because we have 3 15 minute breaks which we all take right? :sarcastic:

Are any of you guys experiencing this issue?

akulahawkRN, ADN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in Emergency Department. Has 6 years experience.

Absent a valid collective bargaining agreement, your employer is supposed to have you all start your lunch before the 5th hour, but you can defer it to the 6th hour if such an agreement is in writing, however you may NOT go past that 6th hour without taking a lunch. Things get even more nuts when/if you don't have sufficient staffing to take breaks/lunches without exceeding the ratios...

Also, they know about what they're supposed to pay the employee for missed breaks and lunches. They're doing what they're supposed to so they can avoid having to pay for those missed breaks and lunches.

Please note I didn't say that it was nice...

MrChicagoRN, RN

Specializes in Leadership, Psych, HomeCare, Amb. Care. Has 30 years experience.

8 nurses and 2 can't go at once?

15 minute interval starts, 11am-12 45 pm start times, although even a 1pm is probably legal.

Two can't go at the same time because there is no one to cover their patients. If that happens, it means that one nurse would go out of ratio 8:1 for 15 minutes or 30 minutes (we are a telemetry unit). The hospital has already had issues with DHS about going out of ratio. DHS said we can't even go out of ratio for 15 minutes.

We have no breaker nurse and the charge nurse can only relieve one at a time.

ausrnurse

Specializes in ICU. Has 4 years experience.

Australia has a similar rule, but we don't say is must be a lunch break, it's just a "break", so usually morning tea, which we start around 8.30, then start lunches around 12. We've never had an issue.

akulahawkRN, ADN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in Emergency Department. Has 6 years experience.

Two can't go at the same time because there is no one to cover their patients. If that happens, it means that one nurse would go out of ratio 8:1 for 15 minutes or 30 minutes (we are a telemetry unit). The hospital has already had issues with DHS about going out of ratio. DHS said we can't even go out of ratio for 15 minutes.

We have no breaker nurse and the charge nurse can only relieve one at a time.

Then given the situation, they're likely doing the only legal thing they can to satisfy maintaining ratios while also meeting their requirements for breaks and lunches. They may have weighed the cost of adding a break nurse against the cost of fines for ratio violations and missed breaks/meal periods and found that they come out ahead with their current staffing.

Not saying that they actually did the "bean counting" but it's certainly possible.

Then given the situation, they're likely doing the only legal thing they can to satisfy maintaining ratios while also meeting their requirements for breaks and lunches. They may have weighed the cost of adding a break nurse against the cost of fines for ratio violations and missed breaks/meal periods and found that they come out ahead with their current staffing.

Not saying that they actually did the "bean counting" but it's certainly possible.

It's definitely a cost saving issue. The entire year has been driven by cost saving techniques and what can we do ti save money.

It is just very frustrating when we just clocked in at 0700 and management tells us to go to lunch at 0800.

This is the first I've heard of this. In the past, I've been told that working over five hours made the breaks necessary, by law, but no one ever said when I had to take the breaks. This exception though: could combine my breaks in the middle of the shift for a super break (night shift nap) at a couple of places, but could not save the breaks until the end of the shift in order to leave early.

I was wondering if you work an eight or twelve hour shift? When you were hired did you agree to an alternative work schedule (somewhat common for california nurses)? Are you an independent hospital? If not, how are other hospitals in your chain handling the breaks for their nurses?

Where I work, in CA, the twelve hour nurses typically begin their 30min lunches at the six hour mark of the shift. We have done this for years and have never been dinged by the state, but we do sign an AWS when we are hired.

It sounds like someone up the food chain is having a knee-jerk reaction - the nurses should draft a firm letter to the DON stating the reasons a lunch break right at beginning of shift is unsafe for patient care.

good luck!

I was wondering if you work an eight or twelve hour shift? When you were hired did you agree to an alternative work schedule (somewhat common for california nurses)? Are you an independent hospital? If not, how are other hospitals in your chain handling the breaks for their nurses?

Where I work, in CA, the twelve hour nurses typically begin their 30min lunches at the six hour mark of the shift. We have done this for years and have never been dinged by the state, but we do sign an AWS when we are hired.

It sounds like someone up the food chain is having a knee-jerk reaction - the nurses should draft a firm letter to the DON stating the reasons a lunch break right at beginning of shift is unsafe for patient care.

good luck!

Thank you, we are all 12 hour shifts. My hospital is a chain hospital, I'm in the process of doing the research to see how the rest of the facilities are doing this.

I have heard of a waiver that Police and Fire department use so they don't have to take their breaks so early. I also believe is a knee jerk response to a resent audit by the Labor Board.

wanderlust99

Specializes in ICU/PACU. Has 10 years experience.

So you aren't getting your 3 mini breaks? How do you take an AM break if you are going to lunch at 0800?

We have 12 plus nurses in our unit. Start lunch at 1100-1330. So goal is everyone is done with lunches by 1400. We have a resource and a charge nurse on most days. We do an AM break, then 2 afternoon breaks.

I know resource nurse isn't in your budget, but hopefully your hospital will get fined and forced into putting in their budget. If you are covering anyone for lunch or your short breaks, it's against CA nurse/pt ratio laws. Report them. Good luck. Also I think it's against CA law not to give you an AM break before your lunch break.

ThePrincessBride, BSN

Specializes in Med-Surg, NICU. Has 6 years experience.

I would hate that. I usually like to take my lunch break on 1300-1330. 11-1230 is too early for me!

wanderlust99

Specializes in ICU/PACU. Has 10 years experience.

There has to be a way around the 5 hour rule. I tried to search for it because there are many websites devoted to this CA law, but no such luck!

I've worked at dozens of CA hospitals as a traveler and can tell you the majority follow the rules, but there are some that don't and I'm happy to see them getting in trouble for it.

I'm sure there is, but I have not found any. Like I said, I've heard that Police Officers for example are exempt from that law. I think the company has to have the employee sign a waiver, but HR has denied that option. I don't know if it's true or not.

I have seen that hospitals who are able to follow this rule have resource/relief nurses for lunches in addition to the charge nurse. I will bring up that idea to upper management and see what they say.

suanna

Specializes in Post Anesthesia. Has 30 years experience.

All depends on how you define "Lunch Break". Many units I've worked just pick some 30 minute period, somewhere in your shift(why not in the first 5 hrs) and didn't pay you for it. "Meal Break"? I'm sure something got into your mouth-a drink of water, a pen, some random secteation that happened to fly in... Presto- lunch break has been taken. If you choose to VOLUNTEER to continue providing for your patients needs rather than get hopelessly behind on your care- that's your choice, but if you insist- it's OK with the hospital.

RN., MSN, RN

Specializes in Perianesthesia. Has 30 years experience.

I work 12 hour shifts in a hospital in California. As a 12 hour employee, we all sign waivers for the 5 hour lunch rule. This means that we do NOT have to go to lunch within 5 hours, and many times we will take lunch around 1 or 2 pm. (which is fine by me) This is not the case for those still working 8 hours shifts. They are mandated to be off the clock by 5 hrs and 59 minutes from the start of their shift.

middleagednurse

Specializes in nurseline,med surg, PD. Has 50+ years experience.

You get breaks???