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legal news & tips for employees published by Law Office of Eugene Lee


What Break Periods Am I Entitled To?

rest breakUnder California law (which is much more generous to employees than federal law), if you are a non-exempt worker, you are entitled to meal and rest breaks: a 30-minute meal break if you work more than 5 hours in a workday, and 10 minutes breaks for every 4 hours you work. There are other requirements though. If your boss doesn’t comply with break requirements, they are required to pay you one extra hour of regular pay for each day on which a break violation occurred.

For the nitty gritties, see below:

Rest Breaks

  1. If you work at least 3.5 hours in a day, you are entitled to a rest break.
  2. Your boss must give you a rest break of at least 10 consecutive minutes for each 4 hours worked.
  3. Rest breaks must to the extent possible be in the middle of each work period.
  4. Rest breaks must be paid.
  5. Your boss may require you to remain on work premises during your rest break.
  6. You cannot be required to work during any required rest break. [Cal. Lab. C. 226.7]. BUT, you are free to skip your rest break provided your boss isn’t encouraging or forcing you to.

Meal Breaks

  1. If you work over 5 hours in a day, you are entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes. BUT, you can agree with your boss to waive this meal period provided you do not work more than 6 hours in the workday. You can also agree with your boss to an on-duty meal break which counts as time worked and is paid.
  2. If you work over 10 hours in a day, you are entitled to a second meal break of at least 30 minutes. You can agree with your boss to waive the second meal break if you do not work more than 12 hours and you did not waive your first meal break.
  3. Your boss has an affirmative obligation to ensure you are free to take your meal break off work premises.
  4. You cannot be required to work during any required rest break. [Cal. Lab. C. 226.7]. Your boss has an affirmative obligation to ensure you are actually relieved of all duty and are not performing any work during meal breaks.

Keep in mind, there are many exceptions to the above for certain industries, such as the healthcare, group home, motion picture, manufacturing, and baking industries.

If your employer is violating your rights to meal and rest breaks, you should contact a lawyer right away. Your claims could be subject to strict filing deadlines. For meal and rest break violations, the filing deadline is usually considered to be 3 years thanks to a recent California Supreme Court decision. [Murphy v Kenneth Cole Productions, 40 Cal.4th 1094 (2007)], but in certain cases, a 1 year filing deadline could apply.

Keep on taking those breaks!

Photo courtesy of cjmellows



  • L.G.

    Ian’s a preschool teacher I work 6 hours a day. I have 1 hour and 15 min break. 15 min paid and 1 hour unpaid . Is it legal?

  • Shelly Hazeleur

    I worked at a billiards parlor and had the bosses from hell. The bosses, who are the owners and are ma married couple, were the biggest bullies and did many things that I feel were both unfair, threatening, embarrassing and probably illegal. I will start with breaks. I usually worked 7.25 hour shifts. I never got a lunch break or a 10 minute break ever. On nights that it was extremely busy and I couldn’t even break away from the register until we closed, Even though I worked hard and as fast as I could, there was no possible way of getting my closing duties done by 1:15 am. We close at 1:00 am and there are many duties I had to complete before closing. Even though our sales were double that of an average weekend night,(which is usually pretty busy on the average, you would think that they would be happy that you made so much money. Instead I got a call from my boss where she yelled at me for clocking out later that 1:15 and she said it was unacceptable. I tried to explain that it was so busy i couldn’t do anything until we closed because I was stuck at the register. She said that if I couldn’t get it done on time, that she would find somebody that could. From then on out I always clocked out at 1:15, although many nights I worked until 1:45 and even later. Nobody could have gotten it done any faster. I would come to work and customers would tell me how she was cussing me out to other employees and in front of our customers for stupid things. exsample… I am overweight and when I get working hard I sweat and my inner thighs rub and get a terrible rash. So I took some corn starch to work because it helps me be able to walk if I mput it on the rash. I stashed it away and labled it Shelly’s corn starch. She found it and very loudly said, “god damn that shelly! She pisses me off!” She went on to tell a fellow worker and anyone that had ears things about me that pisses her off. She through my cornstarch away without even talking to me about it or asking me why i had it there. I found out what had happened to it from a customer the next time I was needing it and couldn’t find it. Many of my paychecks would be off. Never by much but never in my favor either. I left notes about one in particular, that they shorted me $17.00 on my credit card tips. No response. I then called and talked to Ron and he said just leave my tip income report and paycheck stub and they would take a look. I did. The copies were taken, (I did make another copy), and they never paid me. In fact I was always so afraid that I was going to be fired that I never reported other mistakes on other checks and the day I brought up the $17.00 they still owed me, Ron said he didn’t know what i was talking about, and I got fired. Not because i asked for my money, but that certainly did piss him off. I had been asking for more hours and I finally got them for 1 month. We had a new guy that had just started working there that would count the drawer the following day, and he made a mistake and was matching the wrong set of numbers on the credit card machine. My drawer was exactly right, both in cash and in credit card slips and the boss didn’t understand that he was looking at the wrong set of numbers and that made my register appear as if it were $30.00 off. I was off for a couple days because of an abscessed tooth and when I came back I learned that our back up money bag was supposedly $50.00 short. I know nothing about it. He said it was my shift but I was not even there. He talked to another employee about the missing money and said it was $75.00 short. I talked to him and told him that he needed to look at the paperwork that said my drawer was $30.00 short and he would realize it wasn’t. he would realize that the new guy made a mistake. I also told him that I had nothing to do with the missing money. He said, Let’s just forget about it and start over with a clean slate. I did not like that idea because I wanted to clear my name. However, I said ok because you can only argue with your boss for so long. The next time I came to work there was a new schedule where my hours were cut in half for the whole month. he told me it was because i was a risk and referred to the mistake that I didn’t make and the money I didn’t take. I was financially punished for things I was not guilty of. Then we got a whole new computerized register system and i was not given even 2 minutes of training on, even though before we got it they told me we would have to be trained on it in the day when it is slow. The first mistake I made, and I knew I had made a mistake but could not correct it because you have to have a secret code to void a mistake that has been entered, the first mistake I made, my drawer was short $18.00 because a ticket got rang in twice. It was an over ring, not a money shortage, and I got fired. I could keep going, but I won’t. Can I sue them over any of these issues and if so, how do I go about it?

  • lucachic

    I am so confused about the whole break situation. ok so If I work a 8am-5pm job, I have to work 4 hours in order to get a break?? with the company I am with she wants us to go to lunch at 12pm, so from 8-12 that’s already lunch so is that counted as a break? because then when we get back from lunch we work from 1pm-5pm that’s 4 hours gone and we go home? so where’s the break in all this whole thing? because I always thought if you have worked 2 hours since you have been at work you are entitled to a break, then you have your lunch, you come back work for 2 more hours and then get a break and then go home? isn’t that the way it’s suppose to be? because I don’t understand the whole you have to work a full 4 hours before you can get a break, that doesn’t make any damn sense!!!…

    • Jess

      Your suppose to take a break in between those 4 hours. So you would take your first break at 10 then lunch at 12 and your last break at 3.

  • Bugged

    My manager told me that I can only take a break if I have coverage in my 4 hour shift and sometimes I don’t have coverage until the last hour of my shift to take a break. Is this legal?

  • Hernan Carrillo

    working 9 hours with 1 hour lunch, and not breaks in between
    since I taking 1 hour lunch breaks are included in this hour lunch
    It’s legal

  • confuseddeziner

    I am a graphic designer and have been working for the same company for 8 1/2 years. I have never been given two 10 minute breaks. They do give me a 50 minute lunch break, is that covering those 10 minute breaks? I am confused????

  • Hector Sosa

    I have been working for 2 years on a double shift. Can my employer just give my hours to a new employee?

  • Cody

    Do they have to pay you the Civil Penalties as stated in the Industrial Welfare Commission Order NO. 4-2001 Regulating Wages, Hours And Working Conditions?

  • LorenM

    Can my employer force me to go on my break half an our into the start of my shift and take my lunch two hours into the start of my shift if I work an 8 hour day?

    • Frustrated

      I’m also anticipating this reply.I rarely take a break and I’m told to take my lunch 3hrs after I clocked while another employee takes theirs 6 hours after.Is this legal?

  • Steve

    My boss makes me take a single one hour break every day. I work 8 hours a day. Is this ok? Please help.

  • David Baker

    By the labor board, if i go in for work as scheduled(not on-call) and they say my shift is cancelled, are they required to pay me a minimum amount for not telling me in advance? If not, doesn’t the labor board require employers to pay you 4 hours minimum even if you dont work for 4 hours?

  • Delores

    I do not get breaks at my job is this legal? what can i do i work 8-9 hours a day and we have to stand and work when eating lunch