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

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  • Jane Doe

    I worked for my ex-employer between 9/1/2012-8/15/2013 and 11/6/2013-3/31/2014.during that time I generally worked 40 hours per week and was not allowed to take any uninterrupted meal break or interrupted 10 min break. I have been educated that for every meal break I am entitled to a full hour of pay on my next paycheck. I also read on the California labor commissioners website that i’m entitled to a full hour of pay for each 10 min break that was interrupted due on mu following paycheck. I have never received payment for this time and have made the choice to take this to the labor board. How do i figure out this time and how much I’m owed?

  • Slavegirl

    I go to work at 10 and they want me to take a lunch at 11 then work till 6:30

  • Ryan

    My mother’s employer is refusing to respect any of her break laws and despite her 10 hour work day, she is lucky to even get one break, and very lucky if she can manage to get a lunch break. She is a civilian and works on a military base called fort irwin. It is located in California. Her employer claims that they do not have to respect state laws because they are a federal employer. As far as I can tell though, she is no more a federal employee than someone working for the post office. Should she be receiving state law benefits or is she actually exempt?
    Also if get employer does need to follow state regulations, could you cite an official source for proof to her employer

  • mark

    My employer is now saying if you work 6 hours or less you don’t take a lunch break. I was under the impression that this decision had to be mutual… should this be confronted. And if they just start scheduling me for 51/2 hours so I can’t take a lunch is that legal… (California wondering )

    • https://www.CALaborLaw.com Eugene Lee

      If you work over 5 hours, you must be allowed to take an uninterrupted work-free 30 min meal break. You can agree to skip or waive that break if you AGREE to it and don’t work over 6 hours. Even if you agree, you have the right to change your mind any time. So you are right it has to be mutual. Scheduling you for 5.5 hours may entitle you to a meal break if, after deducting your 30 min unpaid meal break, you still worked more than 5 hours.

  • Julie

    I typically work 12 hour shifts & understand that it’s the law that we clock off for a 30 minute lunch but all of a sudden my boss is telling me I MUST clock off for 30 minutes in the last 4 hours of my 12 hour shift. Is this true ?

    • https://www.CALaborLaw.com Eugene Lee

      If you and he agreed to waive your first 30 min meal period, then you must be allowed to take your second 30 min meal period. That second meal period has to start before the end of the tenth hour. So i don’t think that is quite right.

  • Kevin

    I wanted to know if they can legally give you a 30 minute meal break even though you only work 2 or 3 hours that day? Thanks!

    • https://www.CALaborLaw.com Eugene Lee

      They can if they want but unless you work over 5 hours, they don’t have to.

  • Bill

    Been working for a guy for over ten years. Half a dozen employees. No breaks ever. Never hinted, ata break of any kind. He once said that as much as we drive getting from a to b that was a break.

    • https://www.CALaborLaw.com Eugene Lee

      Unless you are exempt, your boss isn’t complying with the law, assuming you work at least 3.5 hours a day.

  • pandy

    I work at a company that allows OT. For our regular 8hour shift, we get 2 15min breaks and a 45min unpaid lunch. If I work for a total of 10 hours (8+2OT) am I entitled to a third 15min break? What if I work a full 12 (8+4OT)?

    • https://www.CALaborLaw.com Eugene Lee

      If you work over 10 hours, you are entitled to two 30 min meal breaks and three 10 min rest breaks. After 12 hours, you’re entitled to double overtime, but not more breaks. After 14 hours, you should receive a fourth 10 min rest break. After 15 hours, you should get a third meal period.

  • antiphon98

    I am a waitress at a small restaurant – work 4 hours, take a lunch break, and work 5 hours after that. So I’d be entitled to 2 10-min breaks. The problem is I am the only waitress there during the first 4 hours, so if I take a 10 min break then, there will be no one there. After my lunch break, there is another waitress so breaks are not a problem.

  • Fran

    Under California State Employment Laws, if a non-exempt employee decides to “quit” his/her job, is it true that they can demand payment of what they are owed in wages at point in time and the employer has to comply. Or does the employee have to provide 2 week notice?

    • Robert Burns

      no such thing as notice to quit
      don’t expect a good reference

    • AD

      In California, an employee does NOT have to provide advance notice prior to quitting their job. If they provide at least 3 days notice (72 hours), then the employer MUST provide their final check and accrued and unused vacation at the end of the 72 hours. If the employee does not provide at least 72 hours notice, the employer has up to 72 hours from the time the time the employee quits. So if you decide to quit today at 5:00 pm, the employer has until 5:00 pm on Friday to provide you your final pay and vacation, pay if any.

  • Fran

    I would like to ask if something a former workmate of mine said is true or not. He mentioned that if someone who is on a break, meal or rest, gets interrupted halfway in, and is asked to do something for say 2 to 3 minutes, on returning to continue his/her break, the person I was informed is entitled to restart his/her break from the start, that is, there is a reset and the person starts at square one with a new 15 minutes instead of where he/she left off before being interrupted (say if they were 7 minutes originally). Is this true?

    • https://www.CALaborLaw.com Eugene Lee

      Rest and meal breaks must be uninterrupted and work free. Otherwise there is a violation. Resetting the break is probably good way to avoid a violation.

  • Fran

    I would like to ask if something a former workmate mentioned to me is true on not. He mentioned that if someone who is on a break gets it, interrupted, and is asked to attend to something for say 2 to 3 minutes, on resuming his/her break, that person is entitled to begin the break again at square one, at a reset time of a new 15 minutes and not at the time their break got interrupted (i.e. if they were 7 minutes in). Is this true?

    • Robert Burns

      If you agree to work they should agree to restart the break or pay overtime

  • james

    I was hired at arco ampm gas station in Roseville, Ca last week.
    I was told when I work midnight to 8 am I don’t get a lunch but I will be paid for a 30min lunch. I also don’t get any breaks. I was also told that if I’m not finished with my “job duties”(stocking,mopping, cleaning etc.) by the end of shit I have to continue working until done unpaid. So 9/21/14 I was scheduled 5pm-1am. I didn’t get any breaks or a lunch then I was required to stay til 130am, only being paid til 1am. They take out 30min for lunch but I didn’t get a lunch? The 2nd manager takes several moke breaks throughout her shift & gets lunch. This doesn’t seem right. But I’m worried I’ll get fired if I speak up cause I’m so new. What should I do? James

    • Robert Burns

      sue them

  • Glenn

    I work from 11pm to 7:30am….my employer gives me a 15 min break after 3 hours and then a lunch break 3 hours after that. My lunch is 6 hours after my start time. I work 6 hours with just a 15 minute break. Is that legal? My last 15 minute break is at 7:15 till 7:30 when I go home…something g is not right with this break and lunch time allowed. Is this legal? Thank you

  • Justin

    If I can’t feasibly take 1 of my rest breaks during my shift can I be disciplined by my employer?

  • Jessica

    If I work 7.75 hrs… Am I entitled to 2 rest periods as well as a meal period.. Management is trying to say the second rest period is not guaranteed and is up to them on a daily basis to decide if we get it

    • C. Montoya

      You are entitled to 2 breaks along with a minimum of a 30 min meal break.

      • https://www.CALaborLaw.com Eugene Lee

        Also rest breaks can’t be waived. Although the employer doesn’t have to force you take them, they certainly can’t prevent or discourage you from taking them. That would be a clear violation.

  • Jeanette

    my husband works from 5 a.m. In the morning to as late as 10 o’clock at night But most times comes home at 7 p. M. He only gets one 15 minute break and one half hour lunchisn’t he supposed to get another breakand how would he report this

    • C. Montoya

      He should have 2- 15 min breaks. More than 12 hours work shoukd be 2 meal breaks.

  • Ángel avila

    i work 5 hours a day. and the required me to take a break (30)minutes.
    but its and hour before i get off. let say start @6 pm break its @10. and i get off @ 11:30. my question its, its there any form of denying the break and finish the shift without break. i meant 5 hours its not a killing hours. and where can i download the form. to sign it.

  • Kelly

    What if you have to sit at your desk and work through a meal break?

    • https://www.CALaborLaw.com Eugene Lee

      The employer must obtain your consent in the form of a signed written on-duty meal break form. Otherwise they can’t force you.

  • law

    Is my employer in violation if the meal break is only provided after six hours of work in a ten hour work day?

    • https://www.CALaborLaw.com Eugene Lee

      Generally speaking, yes, the employer must permit the meal break to be taken no later than the end of the fifth hour (i.e., before the start of the sixth hour). That is a violation entitling you and your co-workers to penalties of 1 hour’s pay for each day that happened.