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

  • 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?