Legal news and tips for employees

What Break Periods Am I Entitled To?

california rest break laws meal break lawsUnder 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

  • Bella

    I work in the pharmacy at a large retail drug chain, a few years ago they had us sign a form saying we would take 10 minutes breaks on our own. We are not required to clock out and it is our responsibility to take these breaks. The front store has a supervisor that covers them while they take their breaks. The problem is in the pharmacy where I am we are so short staffed there is no coverage for you to take a break & front store does not come back to ensure we get our breaks. You basically have to leave your station with no one to cover you. Consequently we almost never take our breaks, if you do you are basically leaving your fellow employee in an extremely stressful environment. We are not encouraged to take these breaks other than the lip service the store manager gives us when we complain. Is there anything we can do?

  • Peter

    Is it after four hours you get a break or after working 2 hours you get a break and then work the remaining 2 hours to complete the first part of an 8 hour shift?

  • Donovan Leach

    I work for a non-profit. A co- worker of mine came in and worked for 3 hours straight. She finished her work and asked if she could leave early. She was allowed to leave but when she put in time her supervisor made her show a lunch break even though she never took a break. This does not seem right to me.

  • Donovan Leach

    I work for a non-profit. A co-worker came in one day and worked for 3 hours straight. She had finished her work and asked if she could leave early. She was allowed to leave early and when she input her time, her supervisor made her show a lunch break even though she never took a break. This does not sound right to me.

  • madmadmad

    I work at a surgery center as a surgical technologist. my shifts always vary. some days i could work 3 hours some days its 12-13 hours, but it’s a small surgery center. so for the past year I have never received a meal break a rest break NOTHING. I finally quit and want to report them. They don’t think they’re doing anything wrong having me work for 10-12 hrs or more with no breaks to get water food or pee! seriously not safe to do while assisting on surgery! but I don’t have any paycheck stubs to prove anything. By law is he required to keep record of it all? will they get it from him if they do an investigation?

  • Barbara Elaine Leon

    I had a former employer do me raw as well. I had worked the entire year without hassels. Until this on time when I got into it with a patron over “manners and policies.” I wasn’t formally trained in this position to begin with. But, when the guillotine came down. It was over the petty stuff. Mysterious, having to” pay me overtime for lunches and breaks not taken on time.” was what he told me, calling in almost everyday to find out if anything was scheduled for the week yet. We had a crappy coordinator that seldom would book events. I was written up 1 time prior for missing a day of work without calling in. Which was something my illegal hispanic Captain of the team was to make sure we all did on time when it came to our lunches and breaks. I not only had to deal with working a all male team of men. I had to put up with the sexual harassment on a daily basis. One of the co-workers, literally had a phone loaded up with midsections of women in their undergarments and he’d look at it constantly through out his shift, my supervisor was hiring pot heads he dealt with and denied doing so. Being he was busted when one of the morons he hired. Told me how he got the job. Another one would brag on how he wanted to buy snort and pot and chill out all weekend. Ugh.. The quality of people nowadays is unbelievable .Just all sorts of nonsense this place was doing. I never worked more than a day or two and to report it was a waste of time, I mentioned it to the heads. But, since its a golf club no one did anything. I have so many gripes on this place from safety issues and hazards to the shitty food service of thieving that took place. And now I feel they are preventing me from finding a new employer due to the reason they said I was discharged was unsatisfactory work service. Go figure … a entire year of excellent work,then this . unbelievable.

  • Cat

    In California, is it legal to work 12 hours a day with a 2 hour lunch in the middle? My boss has me do this so I don’t accrue overtime. Just seems a little sketchy to me and wanted some more input.

  • john harvey

    I just had a company bring me all the way from Texas to work at a refinery in torrance . Now that I’m here and I’ve taken all there classes they say I don’t have a job and now there saying they don’t have to pay me anything for begin here or my travel pay back home is that legal here I’ve been here since April 29th and they tell me this today

  • Jesus Salas

    my girlfriend works at carls jr in baldwin park california , she works 8 hour to 9 hour shift and her boss is waiving her 30min lunch and sometimes on gives her 1 10 mins rest break she requested a day off on monday for friday because she has school because she has an interniship and her manager denied her request with the excuse “you need money for college right ? she has not recieved carls jr proper work clothes either she goes to work in her regular clothes. most of the workers that work there can only speak spanish so she was not trained properly and burnt herself on her arm from the broiler. im highly upset and wish to know what i can do for her so she can work comfortably

    • Barbara Elaine Leon

      Report them to BBB , they will investigate. I would suggest having her type a formal letter to corporate too. Sometimes, they send people to the business and do mystery shopping tactics in finding out what is going on. And put into that letter that the hiring practises are based on the culture and not the skills.

  • Samantha

    I work at a cellphone store and i go in at 10 am and get out at 7 pm that is nine hours, i work by myself and i am not aloud ANY break. My boss wants me to keep the door open at all times, i have to eat when ever i am not busy, i usually have to reheat my food because i have to attend customers while i eat. I only get paid eight hours, my boss said if i complain he will cut my hours to 4 hour shifts and if i seek legal help he will fire everyone. What cani do?

    • Crystal

      You can’t get fired for seeking legal help, if he does its retaliation. He’ll get into even more trouble. You don’t get any breaks and on top of not paying you over time he’s not paying you at all for the last hour you worked from your shift. Get a lawyer he’s going to owe you a lot of $$$$. Not paying your full hours not giving you your lunch breaks, threatening you all that plus penalties. Don’t let him treat you like shIt not pay you and get away with it while he’s comfortly making his money

  • Desertboy

    I work for a Credit union in California. On a daily basis we go over the importance of taking breaks and lunches accordingly. I’m new to the company and I’m used to breaks and lunches being enforced, but this specific employer is so unorganized they do not have the appropriate coverage when the time comes for associates to go to lunch or break.
    I had a situation where I was told I would get paid an hour of regular pay due to the fact I missed my lunch during a customer interaction because there wasn’nt enough or the appropriate personnel to help the customers. I worked over my 5 hrs, even after the fact we close early on that day. So I was told to go home and I would get compensated. After numerous reminders, I still go unpaid and still happen to be neglected when it comes to breaks. Other situations involve working 10 hr days because of monthly meeting that start from early in the day, and when my shift is over, I’m instructed to take two breaks minutes before going home because I was not able to take them during my working hours . Any advice?

  • kelly

    I work 12 hrs I get one 30 min lunch break and no 10 min breaks every 4 hrs and i get additude for asking to go to the restroom.

  • Brandon

    So I worked two days this week that were 12 hour shifts, they told me I don’t get lunch or any breaks, but I get paid for the lunch break. Is that legal?

  • gracey

    Hello, do I get a break for every 4 hours I work, or every 3.5 hours I work? In other words, if I work 4 hours for a day, am I entitle for a 10 minutes break?

  • Linea Paula Mahler

    can an employer force you to take your meal break immediately when you start your 8 hour shift?

  • Fran

    Hi, can an employer require the employee to stay in the office during their rest breaks? Is there a way around this? I would think your meal or rest break is your own time. Thanks!

  • irritated employee

    I work at a medical spa as a receptionist in the bay area and I have a schedule where I am to work from 10am – 6pm. I get a 1 hour break at 1pm until 2pm. Recently my boss asked me to take my break at 12pm for an hour instead of 1pm on Wednesdays because there are no patients in the morning that day and the first patient is always at 2pm, that day; she wants me to be at the front when patient arrives. I find this unfair because i work for 2 hours and dont get tired or hungry (i eat breakfast an hour before I start work), and then i do feel a little tired working 5 hrs (1pm-5pm). Then she asked me to do this again on a different day during the week just because her first patient started at 1pm that day and had a slow morning with no patients. Is this legal?

    • You’re not entitled

      I think you should be more understanding. Nothing she’s asking is illegal. You get an hour. All she owes you is a 30 minute break. Be thankful you’re gainfully employed and find a more constructive mindset. Be an example of someone others want to follow, learn from and maybe you’ll be the manager one day.

  • Cristina Trejo


    • lyn

      To be honest.I don’t think that’s legal. Seek legal advice

  • Cie

    I work for a company where one of our employees was told that the 10-minute rest period is what bathroom breaks are for; is it legal for the employer to count the time an employee uses a bathroom as part of the 10-minute rest period?

  • sam

    Hi. I work in a long term care facility in a 12 hrs shift. Are we obligated to have 2 times 30 minutes breaktime without pay? But in order to complete 12 hrs with pay we are oblige to start 630 to 730 total 13 hrs. We were told its a California Law? Sam

    • Brittany Dunham

      You have the right to waive the 2nd meal period in a 12 hour shift. . It is not California law. However, no matter how long you take a break for you must “work” 12 hours to be paid for 12 hours. Seek legal advice

  • Whitney

    I work at a daycare there time I only work 8 hours I’m entitled to have a 2 hour break is that allowd

  • Bcostilow

    Hello I work for a major corporation, usally I work a shift from 3-830 and my boss forces me to take a 15 min break within the first 45 mins on the clock and spend the rest of the shift with out any breaks is this legal?

  • Arturo

    My mom works 8 hours how long dies she have for a break?

  • Donnyell

    What is the law/regulation for on duty meal break?

  • Maila

    I don’t know how different things since I work at a day care but we work 6/6.5 hour shifts and work get a lunch. Only if we work 7 or more. But we want lunches!! We also don’t get any 10 minute breaks

    • lyn

      From what I’ve read you are supposed to legally get 30min break when you work more than 5 hrs and 10min break for every 4hrs

  • employee

    I don’t want to take a meal break because that is 30 minutes I lose in pay,and I need the money,is there anyway I can waive my break?

  • OR EE

    Do I get breaks when I take call? I work for a hospital

  • edith young

    On behalf of some of my coworkers, I need some clarification. When they work a double shift usually 3 pm to 7 am , our employer has them take 3 lunches. The first one within the 1st five hours of the first shift, then the employee has to clock out at 11 pm and then clock in at 11 30 pm , and the last one within the first five hours of the second shift. Is that legal. My Co workers are really concerned.

  • laura

    hello my shift is from 9:45-5:00 i know im entitled to a 30 min break but i can never take it because t its always sho busy and my employer never schedules somebody to come in early ..i am supposed to clock out out at 2:30 and clock in at 3:03 but since nobody comes in im forced to work on my 30!!and i never get payed for my questions are i am supposed to get payed for my 30 right???

    • lyn

      Yes, you’re supposed to get paid as a full hour if you are made to work through your half hour lunch

  • Michelle M.

    I typically work 8-9 hour days. However, I do not receive any 10 minute breaks throughout the day. Additionally, I eat my lunch (20 minutes) while working. No other meal break time is provided nor has an agreement of me waiving my lunch break been established. The conditions are uncomfortable and I am not even able to take more than 1-2 bathroom breaks either. Should I contact my lawyer?

  • Julia Oceania

    My employer gives half an hour break for a 6 hour shift for a meal break, and hinted that was the only break that I get when I am there for 6.5 hours, don’t I get an additional 10 minute break because I am there for 6.5 hours?

  • Jp

    If I am not allowed to take my 10 minute breaks, am I entitled to an hour of pay for each break missed?

  • CuriousCat

    What is the rule on clocking into work and then being put on meal break right away? Is it illegal to take the break before 2 hours of working and then work the rest of your 8 hour shift afterward?

    • Scarlettashley

      Please let me know I had the same thing happen to me I clocked in at 1030 than took my only break at 1040 and clocked out at 5

  • guest

    Hi I work 10 hrs with breaks and lunch but one thing bout my company is that’s resent they are Getting strict . They want us to clock in at the exact clock in time and if you are late by 2 min they can write you up. Before we had a grace period. Is it OK to do stuff like this if it’s their company policy.

  • Juan

    Hi good day! I work 10 hour shifts with two ten minute breaks,a one hour unpaid lunch break, so I’m at work eleven hours. How many breaks am I entitled to?

    • Eugene Lee

      Arguably, you should be getting a third 10 min rest break, but that is a close call. If you work significantly OVER 10 hrs, then you definitely should be getting a third 10 min rest break AND a second 1 hr unpaid meal break. But if you are working exactly 10 hrs or less, then you’re probably getting the right amount of breaks (again, it’s a close call).

  • jim

    if i have an employee that wants to work from 8-4 and doesnt want a lunch break, and takes a ten minute break in the morning and a ten minute break in the afternoon. is all ok?

    • Eugene Lee

      Employers have a duty to make rest and meal breaks AVAILABLE to employees. However, under a California Supreme Court decision called Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (Hohnbaum), employers are not required to force or ensure employees take their breaks. Based on what you’ve described, your employee is getting the right number of rest breaks. So long as you are making the lunch break available to the employee and the employee is voluntarily choosing to skip it, that should be ok. You should probably have an employer-side labor lawyer take a look at your employee policy manuals and other compliance efforts, though.

  • miguel carrillo

    If I work 11.5 hrs how many rest breaks and meal breaks am I in titled to take because I take 2 10 min. Rest breaks and 1 30 min. Meal break

    • Eugene Lee

      Because you work over 10 hours, you should be getting TWO 30-min meal breaks, not one. Also, because you work significantly more than 10 hrs, you should be getting THREE 10-min rest breaks, not two. If you haven’t already, you should complain (IN WRITING) to your employer about not getting the correct amount of meal and rest breaks. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who complain about wage law violations. If your employer fails to fix the problem or retaliates, you should contact a lawyer immediately. We handle break claims as well as retaliation claims. Give us a call at 213-992-3299 if you have further questions.

      • steve,cskk

        My employer will tell us not to clock out for lunch if we go over 5 hours. What should I do?