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

  • PL

    can my employer let me go because she says on the days i work there is no business but when i dont work it is busy

  • burgess

    I work for a non-profit org and in Nov they found out they didn’t have the money to cover their payroll. They continued to let the employees work the 1st week of Dec without telling us we would not be paid. What can we do?

  • l

    I work in manufacturing on 4 day/ 10 hr shifts. Sometimes I work 11 hr days but only get one meal break on those days. My company pays for the meal breaks but they are only provided after the completion of the sixth hour of work. Is this still considered a violation that entitles me to the premium?

  • Amanda Greco

    I work for Hometown and ocassionally work 6-9 hrs a day. I was never once asked to go on break. I have asked my managers if i can go on break after working 6 hrs and they would say no we are to busy. Ocassionally ill get a 10 minute break but more then often the managers would fill in my time card saying i taken a 30 minute break when i dont i would ask them to fix this and they say they will but by the time i sign for my check i notice they don’t. I sometimes dont sign for i dont agree with my hours well they had me sign a paper saying i can get my meal breaks but now they are telling me it dosnt start till next week. wehn i insit its the california law they said company policy dosn’t change till next week. this is my first job so for the first few months i let everything slip from me as for i didnt know any better. can i do something about this? its difficult running a station by yourself for 9 hrs when its really busy and not being able to get your meal breaks

    • Mo

      Ofcourse you can do something about this. If they are not paying you an extra hour of regular pay for not being able to relieve you for your meal break, you can take them to court. What city are you in and what state?

  • Joseph

    I work for a nightclub in ca, the owner of the club wants to keep payroll down so they change our hours before our paychecks. For example if I work a 7 or 8 hour shift that I am scheduled for they change it to say I only worked 6.5. I essentially never get paid for the full amount of time I’m clocked in. My paychecks have never reflected what I’ve worked. Would that be a case worth pursuing???

  • tiyona

    I work for Denny’s and when I do work more then 5 hours I always work on my beaks and i am forced to clock out and i have to work under managers numbers and still take tables. No to mention when I am scheduled To get off I sometimes have to clock out and do my side work (work to be done before u leave work) I have to Clock out and still have to do that work Off the clock. Then leave, more unpaid time. Not to mention majority of the blacks work graveyard and every weekend if asked for shift change you will get the worst Schdule ever like I did. Do u think i have a case.?

  • Junea

    I work at a Preschool from 8:15 am until 4:45 pm. We have never had any ten minute break in the first four hours of work and only recently have sometimes received a ten minute break in the afternoon which is often interrupted by phone calls or questions from parents/staff. We have also been forced to take lunch breaks as early as 9:50 a.m., 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. in which our boss says “I know this isn’t ideal but do you have any better ideas?” Is this a violation? What should we as a staff do?

  • Roy

    I work from 2pm to 10:30pm. We take our first break at 4pm, lunch time is from 6pm to 6:30pm and we take our second break at 8:30pm. Our boss told us we can take a break at 10:30pm only if we are going to work more than 2 hours after 10:30, for example if we are going to end our labor at 11pm we can not take a break at 10:30pm. Is that true?

  • maestrodks

    Let’s say I work an 8 hour shift. I don’t get my meal break until 5 1/2 hours into my shift. Am I entitled to additional pay? What if I don’t get my meal break until 6 hours 15 min. Again, am i entitled to additional pay?

    Thanks in advance

  • mtaylor89

    I work 2 full time jobs, I follow all the rule breaks for my primary day full time job. As for my second full time job, how can I get out of having taking breaks, etc. I work from home for that 2nd job.

  • Ricki

    My husband works 8 hour shifts from 4am to 12pm. His new manager insists that they have to take their lunch 2 hours into their shifts. So he takes his lunch at 6 am and then has to work over 5 hours without eating. Would that constitute a meal break? This morning he was required to take his lunch after just one hour of work. Please help I feel bad for him.

    • Mo

      Meal break only can be taken 3 hours after starting work and no later than 5th hour. So taking a lunch 2 hours in is a violation. You have a case. I am not an attorney but a GM for a hotel.

  • Kenneth J. Leigh

    I work as a security officer for a contracted client with my company; I get paid a straight eight hour shift without someone relieving me for a 10 and 30 minute breaks; in addition, sometimes I work a straight 12 hours without someone relieving me for breaks. Is my company required to provide me the required breaks under state law; even though, I get paid working through my eight hour shift.

    • Mo

      Aren’t you relieved of all your duties at some period when you could be taking a meal break on duty?? I don’t believe your company has to relieve you of your duties unless they say otherwise. When you are taking your 30 minute meal break without any responsibilities, if your company asks you to perform any tasks, then you are not receiving a meal break on duty or not.

  • Loretta

    My former employer did not provide coverage while I was on a meal break.When a customer came in I had to help them even though I was at lunch.Can I file with the labor board?

  • Charles

    I work from 8am to 4pm. lunch is from 12 to 1. I get a break at 9:30 and one at 2:30. Is the afternoon break required?

  • Kevin

    I work in construction and we work from 7 am to 3pm. We only get one lunch break of 35 minutes. We’re supposed to leave at 3 30 but we leave 30 minutes early due to not taking breaks (im guessing). But we have been working overtime which is 10+ hours and we still dont get a second lunch. We even worked till 9Pm once with just one lunch. Ive been there for 5 months now. Everyone cant complain sine most dont have papers but im scared to say somthign due to the fact that he will fire me or just put me on one day a week. We also have to do time sheets stating we took 2 10 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch otherwise we dont get paid. What can i do?

    • Jules

      What your employer is doing is illegal. Is your employer classifying you as a contractor or as an actual FTE?

  • Sharon
    • Eugene Lee

      Nonexempt workers must be permitted to take their first meal break BEFORE the end of the fifth hour (i.e., before the start of the sixth hour). If you work more than 10 hours, you should be getting two separate 30-minute meal breaks (unless you signed a waiver).

  • magoo

    I am an employer and I try to make sure we are following all the rules. We have signs posted reminding everyone to take their paid 10 minute and unpaid 30. However, some of our employees are habitually taking less than 30 minutes, like 20 or 25 and then clocking back in. I keep reminding them to take the full 30 minute. Can we get in trouble for this? We are not forcing them to come back early but they do. We want to be fair, but it doesn’t seem right that we would need to pay our employees an extra premium because they cut their own lunch off early. We pay for overtime and other things as well.

    • Eugene Lee

      The law requires that employers make full 30-minute uninterrupted meal breaks available to employees and not discourage or punish employees for taking them. If you have proof you did the foregoing and employees are voluntarily choosing to cut their own meal breaks short, you don’t need to pay the extra premium (although it may not be a bad idea to do so anyway, just to preempt having to fight off lawsuits). I strongly recommend you talk to an employer-side lawyer to ensure you aren’t paying meal premiums unnecessarily, which might be what’s happening.

    • rjdubb

      Each time they clock in early you need to document them whether it is a written warning for the first time or actually write them up for another short lunches. Yes you can get into trouble if you are audited . To cover yourself you need to start documenting the employees and Making them sign the documentation.

  • Celia

    I have 6 h shift. Can my boss force me to have a meal brake?. I was under the impression if you work 6 or less you do not have to take it.

    • Sean

      When I was in retail, I was required to take a meal break before my 5th hour. Then, our manager allowed us the opportunity sign a meal waiver (if we wanted to). That means we wouldn’t have to take a meal before our 5th hour, but we had to take one before reaching our 6th. If you have a 6 hour shift, you may be required to take a meal break unless you also signed a meal waiver. If you signed a waiver and don’t want to take a meal break for a 6 hour shift, then you probably have to clock out before hitting your 6 hour mark. Hope that helps!

      • Eugene Lee

        Sean is right. You have the option of mutually agreeing with your employer to waive the first meal period so long as your workday doesn’t exceed 6 hours. It is usually best if the waiver is in writing, although waivers can be oral too.

  • Miss M

    If I work 9am-6pm each day, get a 10-minute break at 10:30am, and then go to lunch from 2:04pm-3:04pm, by law, should I be entitled to another 10 minute break between 3:04pm and 6pm when I get off? My boss told me that I am not entitled to a second break because I am not working 4 hours straight at the end of my shift. But I thought that a 10 minute break must be given for every 4 hours total that is worked during a shift regardless of it was 4 hours straight through or not. If I work a total of 8 hours (5 hours before my lunch and then 3 hours after my lunch) shouldn’t I be given two 10 minute breaks and a lunch during my whole work shift?

  • Ms J

    What is the minimum amount of hours you can be scheduled in a day. During holidays when it is slower sometimes some employees are scheduled 1 1/2 hours. Is that legal?

    • Eugene Lee

      I think you are talking about something called “reporting time pay”. This is what the DLSE has to say about it:

      “Each workday an employee is required to report to work, but is not put to work or is furnished with less than half of his or her usual or scheduled day’s work, the employee must be paid for half the usual or scheduled day’s work, but in no event for less than two hours nor more than four hours, at his or her regular rate of pay.

      For example, if an employee is scheduled to report to work for an eight-hour shift and only works for one hour, the employer is nonetheless obligated to pay the employee four hours of pay at his or her regular rate of pay (one for the hour worked, and three as reporting time pay). Only the one-hour actually worked, however, counts as actual hours worked.”

  • leanne D.

    Im working 8 hours on a facility, can we have a 10mins. And 15mins. Break, when we can get that break? Cause most of the time we are not getting that break we just have our 30mins. Break and sometimes we are interrupted by our supervisors with that 3omins. As far as I know when we have that 30mins. Break it should not be interrupted cause thats the only time we have our full rest..what we should do..

    • MrsPeterson

      Your meal periodperiod should have absolutely no interuptions from managers or anyone else. If you confront them about it and they say too bad file a claim immediately. They are in violation.

      • Eugene Lee

        MrsPeterson is right. 30 minute meal periods must be uninterrupted and free from work. You must be permitted to leave the worksite during that time too (unless your employer has provided a dedicated eating area). You must also be provided 10-minute rest periods, one for every 4 hours worked. You should complain to management in writing that you aren’t getting your rest breaks. If the violations continue, you should file a complaint with the labor board. See

  • 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

    • e. Rivera

      Sounds like my old job on fort Irwin. Look into filing a complaint with DoDIG via hotline . It takes some time but that’s what I’m doing for unfair labor practices. The website is where was she working?

  • 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 )

    • 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 ?

    • 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!

    • 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.

    • 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)?

    • 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?

    • 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.

      • 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?

    • 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?

    • 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.