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

  • 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???

  • 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?

  • 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.