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California Break Requirements: Know Your Rights

HomeBlogCalifornia Break Requirements: Know Your Rights
June 21, 2022

Per California wage and hour law, all non-exempt workers are permitted a 30-minute lunch or meal break if they labor more than 5 hours per day. The meal break must be given within the first 5 hours of the workday. Employees who work more than 10 hours a day are allowed another 30-minute meal break.

California laws also require rest breaks for non-exempt workers who work three-and-a-half (3 1/2) or more hours in a day. Workers are permitted ten (10) minutes of rest for every 4 hours that they work in a day. These breaks should be taken in the middle of each 4 hours to the extent possible. If you are being denied these rights, you should contact an experienced attorney for assistance. 

Meal Breaks

Employees who work more than 5 hours a day are allowed a thirty (30) minute meal break. Nevertheless, an employee may agree to waive that meal break if they will not work more than six (6) hours in the day.

In addition, employees working more than ten (10) hours in a day must also be given a second thirty (30) minute meal break.

The worker may waive their second meal break if:

  1. Their workday will not be longer than twelve 12 hours; and
  2. They didn’t waive the first meal break.

Rest Breaks

Rest breaks/rest periods are also mandated under California labor regulations.

The length of instructed rest periods must be at least ten (10) minutes for every 4 hours, or a substantial fraction thereof, that the employee will work during the day.

These California rest breaks must be calculated as time on the clock and must be compensated. The break time must be in the middle of the employee’s work period, to the degree that this is possible.

But rest periods are not required for workers who work less than three and a half (3 1/2) hours in a day.

Is It Legal for My Employer to Require Me to Work or be “On-Call” During My Meal or Rest Break?

Employers may NOT require employees to keep working or stay “on-call” during meal or rest breaks.

Thus, if your employer asks that you work while eating during a meal or stay on call during your rest period, this is legally comparable to denying you your meal or rest break.

Nonetheless, employers are not required to confirm that you do no work during your meal or rest break. In other words, if you willingly decide to work during a break, your employer is not responsible.

Could I Sue My Employer for Not Allowing Me to Take A Meal or Rest Break?

California workers may sue employers for denying them a meal or rest breaks mandated under the Labor Code or labor regulations. 

Triumphant wage and hour class action lawsuits often involve failure to provide meal breaks or rest periods.

If a California employer fails to permit employees to take their meal or rest breaks, the employer will owe the workers one extra hour of pay – at the regular pay rate for every break that was denied to them.

Contact Our Labor and Employment Attorneys

For questions about California employee meal and rest break requirements or to discuss your case with one of our experienced California labor and employment attorneys at Olivier & Schreiber, LLP, do not hesitate to contact us about bringing a wage claim.

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