Legal news and tips for employees, by Law Office of Eugene Lee

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

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  • LivingOnAPrayer

    I’m a college student working fast food and I primarily work graveyard shift. My employer only has 1 other person on average with me and it’s impossible to take any breaks. I work 10:15pm-6:00am when my co-workers actually show up on time, but most days I’m here until 6:30am with no breaks. Is this legal?

  • Andrea

    What if an hourly employee works 7.5 hours – 9:30am to 6pm. Gets one 15min break at noon and lunch at 230pm.and no break in afternoon. Is the employee enititled to second break in the afternoon?

  • Joe Drake

    My employer regularly gives me my lunch around 1- 12 hours after I clock in for an 8 hour shift. They do this to prevent lunch violations/penalties, but what about all that time on the back half of my shift? If I work from 1- 10, and take a 30 minute lunch from 2- 230, I have 7.5 hours without a lunch. Is this legal? Do they owe me lunch premium?

  • Daniel Garcia

    I work 8hrs a day from 7am-3pm and I dont get lunch nor break. What can I do? Is this illegal?

    Note: My company wanted me to sign a policy about my breaks but they gave it to me about 2 weeks ago and I have been working for them 2 years now why would they give me this notice after 2 years of work…??

    Thank you

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