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

  • Bianca

    I work overnight 10:45 am to 6:45 am monday and tuesday. Since there is no one to relieve me for a break since I am the only one on property during these hours I signed a break waiver. Legally are they suppose to pay me an extra hour for not being able to take a meal/rest break or is this different since its an overnight shift??

  • Jacob Sosa

    I signed a waiver to get paid for my lunch break, so I only work a straight 8. I work graves and I get a little tired like most people. So during my 10 minute breaks, I like to lay my head down. But now supervision is telling us that we are not allowed to do that. Is that legal? Also, I get called out (via radio) during my 10 minute breaks all of the time. Is that also legal, or are they in the right?

  • Maria Carrasco

    I’ve been working 5-8 hour shift . My boss gives me a 30 min lunch(30min) after I clock in to work, and won’t give me a 10 min break .

  • Sandy

    I work five hours a day and my boss is telling me that she will not pay me for my 30 minute lunch break. She says that she will only pay me for the 30 minutes if I am working while I am eating. Is that correct for her to do? I am also not getting any paid ten minute breaks.

  • Malta

    I am a teacher at a private school and have a 15 minute break 3 days a week for lunch and lunch recess duty the other two. Since I am an exempt worker, legally my school does not have to give me any breaks. What would be the best approach to get the law changed so teachers can have a 30 minute break for lunch every day?

  • Alondra

    My boss makes me take an unpaid 30 min lunch when he schedules me working 3.5 hrs in a day. I addressed that we should only take a lunch if working more than 5 hrs. My boss said that his lawyer said is ok. Is this true??

  • MealKenny

    Most shifts are 5.5 hours straight without a meal break. My boss told me meal break penalty is when I work OVER 6 hours straight without taking a 30 minute meal break. Boss will not pay unless employees work over 6 hours straight without meal break. If boss is wrong then I can get backpay, right?

  • Angel Cortez

    The place i work at is gonna be soon requiring to clock out and clock in on my 10 minute break is that even legal?

  • liz

    i work a 10-4 on thursdays what kind of breaks am i allow to take?

    • Jay

      So that’s 6 hours. You are entitled to a 10 minute break after every 4 hours worked. You are also entitled to a 30 minute meal after 5 hours worked. But if you don’t work more that 6 hours, you can agree with your boss to skip your meal break.

  • Edgar Gonzalez

    I have been working 12 hour shifts from 4am-4:40pm i get a 15 min break at 9:00am and a lunch break at 11am then another 15min break at 2:30 pm. my question is should i be getting a break between 4am-9am ?

  • Martin Amezcua

    I just started a new job been working late shift 10pm-6am. I am by myself all night I get no breaks and no lunch. I needed the job but just wanted some advice on what to do. Thanks

  • Chris

    I have been working at my company for a few months now and have not taken a single break. I have not actually been told I “can’t”, but it is definitely looked down upon. I was told “when we hire another coworker and we’re not shorthanded we’ll start taking our breaks”. Can my company technically get in trouble for that?

  • Chris

    I work a four hour shift on Saturdays. I am totally alone in the store so I cannot take a break because that would mean leaving the counter and cash drawer unaccompanied. Is that illegal for my company to leave me to work alone and not allow me to have a break?

  • Isaias Tapia

    My boss makes us take our half right after we clock in, is that legal?

  • felicia

    is it legal to work 10 hour shifts with no breaks and 30 minute lunch

  • Monica Marie Arena

    I worked from 8:40 am to almost 8 pm one day. I took a lunch from 12:15 to 1:15 (which I worked through). I noticed my employer altered my time card and changed my lunch period to 1:40 to 2:40 and changed my out punch to 7:40 pm to avoid paying me an extra hour of work. Is this legal?

  • sarahhhhh

    If im working 6 hours i and got my 39 min break am i still entitled to my 10 min break?

    • Eugene Lee

      Short answer is: Yes (assuming you are a nonexempt hourly paid or piece rate worker). Assuming you didn’t sign a meal break waiver, you are entitled to a 30 min unpaid meal break. You are also entitled to a 10 min paid rest break. If you work over 6 hours, you are entitled to a second 10 min paid rest break.

  • Eduardo

    If I work from 6p.m. to 2p.m. When I’m suppose to take my break. Is my shift lead able to send the employees to break after 1st to 2nd hour that they clock in.

    • Eugene Lee

      Your 10 min break has to be as close to the middle of each 4 hour work period as possible. So around 8 am or 9 am. Your lunch break has to start by no later than 11:59 am, otherwise it is considered a late lunching violation. You are supposed to get a second 10 min rest break too, since you are working more than 6 hrs.

  • Taylor

    If I work 6 hours & don’t take a lunch break can I have to 10 min breaks?

    • Eugene Lee

      You are supposed to get BOTH a 30 min meal break AND a 10 min rest break. If you work over hours, you are also supposed to get a second 10 min rest break.

  • Bob

    We have a 15 minute break. Are we entitled to take the full 15 minute break rest and not like the lead lady ask me it was supposedly be only 10 minute, and the 5 minute was to walk back to the work area?… funny is that no one goes early until the 2 minute mark to hit the full 15m break. Look like she single me out… They said 15 minute break, not 10 minute. Other job I take full 15 minute break and no issue.

    • Eugene Lee

      Rest breaks must be 10 minutes, not 15 minutes.

  • Savannah

    Say I work from 10am-6pm with only 1 half break and I don’t get told I can’t take my 10 min breck until 6oclock basically the time I’m off is tha
    t right ?

    • Eugene Lee

      No. You are supposed to get TWO 10 min rest breaks, and they are supposed to be taken as close to the middle of each 4 hour work period as possible.



    • Eugene Lee

      That is a question that requires a careful review by a lawyer of your contract. There’s no way to answer any questions about the contract without reading the contract.

  • Sophie Ann

    If I take a 1 hour lunch break am I still entitle to my 2 10min breaks?

    • Kyle Miller

      Yes, you do still are I would contact a lawyer as you have been getting robbed of your wages…

    • Eugene Lee

      Rest breaks and meal breaks are SEPARATE. A meal break does not also count as a rest break. For example, if you work 8 hours in a day, you are supposed to receive a total of THREE breaks: a 30-min meal break and two 10-min rest breaks.

  • Brenda Aman

    If the meal waiver has been agreed upon can the employer still make the employee take a 30 minute meal break?

    • Kyle Miller

      If you worked over 6 hours

  • miguel vitela

    I got a question . in my 15 min break I usually take out a ball and start playing soccer with some of my coworkers. But recently my boss told us we can’t be playing soccer because breaks are meant to rest not to be playing around is he being unfair can I use my breaks for what I like?

    • Kyle Miller

      Yes he can do that because you are paid for it.. If it was your lunch and off the clock then he couldn’t say anything but as a rest period you are getting paid and the law states he has that right