On February 25, 2021, the California Supreme Court in Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC, S253677 decided two questions of law relating to meal periods: first, “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 . . . [s]econd,  that time records showing noncompliant meal periods raise a rebuttable presumption of meal period violations, including at the summary judgment stage.” In doing so, the California Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal’s judgment and remanded the matter to allow the parties to present evidence and argument bearing on the question of liability, namely, evidence as to whether an employee voluntarily shortened his/her meal period. In doing so, the Supreme Court left open the possibility that the presumption of a meal period violation may be rebutted with evidence that an employee voluntarily shortened his/her meal period. However, the ultimate outcome of such a defense remains unknown.
In light of this decision, California employers who use rounding practices for employee meal periods should evaluate their timekeeping policies to ensure all employee meal and rest periods are accurately recorded.