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

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  • alena barajas

    if you work ONLY five hours, are you required to take 30 minute break??

  • Lupe Rodriguez

    Hello I have a question, my employer had us sign a paper that states whether or not they can give 10 minute breaks. However they choose not to give the 10 minute break, only a lunch. Is this a loophole? Can anything be done?.. I asked them for a copy of that said paper and they refused to provide me with a copy and asked for the number the owner to which they also refused. I need a reply please

  • lupe rodriguez

    ok i have a question, i recently started working at El Pollo Loco, I live in CA and i’ve been doing 2-7 shifts but when i arrive they sometimes tell me I’m gonna have to stay longer. The first day i got no breaks and i was there for 4 1/2 hours or so. the second day i was there until 9 and only got a lunch break.i’m aware that we’re supposed to receive a 10 min break but thought maybe they’d mention it and they haven’t. I asked other employees and they’ve said that no matter how long their shift is they only get 1 lunch break. Now these other employees are 16-18 years old they don’t know better. What can be done here, it’s obvious they’re taking advantage of them. No one there is away that they’re entitled to a 10 min break and the managers don’t mention breaks at all just lunch. Need a response ASAP. i just got another job and i want to do something for these kids.

  • Rachel Ortiz

    I recently started my first job as a cashier/waitress at a fast food place. I asked for part time, and usually work from 4-10 and only get a 30 minute lunch break for the entire shift. (Sometimes they make me take it 30 minutes into working and work the rest of my shift straight.) Am I still entitles to my 10 minute rest breaks? I also clock out for my lunch break.

  • chelsea

    My boss ” changes our clockouts” and states we ” forgot” to clock out for break. We have no one to cover us and CANT take a break sometimes. I called him on it and he says its our responsibility to clock out and break..so if we don’t break..he just takes 30 minutes off our pay..sounds like a class action to me. He also changes our clock out to 8 hours..even if we work 11.. He will.. Again say we forgot to clock out..guess he forgets about cameras..I love my job but the day I leave..I’m gonna head straight to BBB!..or can I file now without repercussions?

  • Nicholas shaffer

    If I work 10 hours how many 10 min breaks do I get

  • Mona

    Can my employer force me to take my 15 minute break before my shift and then work 5 or 6 hours straight?

    • JaninthePan

      You should be getting a full 30 minute meal break if you’re working 5 hours. It’s not a “break” if you’re taking it before your shift. You can check with your local DLSE office. You may be owed money for breaks not given. http://www.dir.ca.gov/

  • kritakat

    i work at a car wash 6 hour shifts and i am only allowed a 15 min paid break to eat lunch. I was hired to work for the car wash but to save money my employer has us cleaning and maintain all the other properties they own in the same building complex including the dumpster. these duties include: emptying all construction material, cleaning empty buildings, picking up split trash for other local stores in the same complex that they own, fixing all the hydrolice systems, building main structure beams withing the carwash, painting…etc the list goes on. After fixing the main systems that are full of grease i get sent home and loose my hours because now i am dirty and cant work. we are in a heated environment all day with a small fan that does not work and the women who are cashiers are in a air conditioned room. we are not given the opportunity to become managers because they only give that position to women, one male employee asked for the position of a cashier position and they made him to a full report and present it to the whole team.. Also if we work 7 days straight we are not paid time in a half. There is a unwritten rule that no women can walk to their car alone, including the boss. After our shift is over, our job is finished, we have to wait till the boss is ready to leave. Just last week the men left waiting for the boss to leave so they can walk her to the car, after their shift was over and all the job duties were complete were written up for being on their phones while the boss finishes up loose ends and was ready to be walked out. This being my first job ever and working here for 2 years im not sure of what laws are being broken if any. What if any rights do i have

  • Cristina Avitia

    Im a driver an work from 5-9:30 and come back at 2:30-7…because i have a split shift my boss say we dont get breaks….is that true?

    • Jaime Marie Heath

      You should get at least your 15 minute breaks for each of those times. Since each shift is only 4.5 hours, you’re only required to have a 15 minute break (paid).

  • Justin Keener

    Iam curious about something. Iam a security guard and we have a post that’s open at 6am and goes to 6pm. It’s split into two shifts. 6am-12pm and 12pm-6pm.

    I have been told I have to take a lunch but all I do is sit in a booth most of the time. According to what I read I can waive a lunch and be OK, but my company has told me multiple times that I have to take it period….my question is. Is that true or can I waive it and not take a lunch?

    • BabyJ

      You can waive it if it’s over 5hrs but less than 6hrs. If you’re working 6 hours you are required to take a 30 minute unpaid rest period. It sounds like you’re working 6 hrs so you’d definitely have to take a 30 minute unpaid rest period.

  • Jack

    Hi I work from 10 am to 4:30 pm my employer only gives me a 30 meal break but at other jobs I’ve had with similar hours 6 to 8 hr days I got a 10 min break to can they just give me a 30 if I work only 6.5 hrs?

  • http://www.facebook.com/oldtownpaints 112713mom

    Most of my shifts are four hours but because I am in an instructing role I cannot take a break during the middle of my shift. During the training for this job we were told that because you dont always get a break during your shift then we will allow you to leave once you are done with all the closing duties so that meaning if I am done closing at 9:30 and my shift was scheduled til 10:00, I wwould be able to leave at 9:30 and still reacieve 4hours of pay for the shift 6pm to 10:00. recently my boss has said that we will not get paid for for the full four hours if we do not stay and work for the full four hours, and when i asked her How that will affect our verbal break agreement she said I dont qualify for a break until I work four hours and that she is doing everything legal as her role as an employer as long as i do not go over the 4 hour mark. I know this is wrong and i tried to explain the laws as i know it, Iasked for a meeting with her and the managment so I can get clarification n=on policies and that was over two weeks ago and I still havent got a meeting yet. Meanwhile i have worked 4 hour shifts and still have not received any breaks. and THEY are well aware that we are not taking breaks. I really like this job, It is one that i am passionate about so i doint want to give it up si im scareda about filing a wage claim because i fear that they may retaliate in ways that dont leave a paper trail like being rude, or not calling me when other shifts need covering and giving priority to the employess who Dont know their rights. I also signed a non compete agreement and i am an At will employee so i fear that will make up an excuse to fire me if i file a wage claim and deny that the wage clai m is the reason for filing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/oldtownpaints 112713mom

    It seems that anytime I do something that is not correct my employer will refer me to the handbook and gets quite irritated when im not following rules and procedures listed int he handbook, but whenever I point somehting out that is not be done acording to the poicies in the handbook they tell me that the handbook is just a guide and that what they are doing is ok. Is this ok because in my handbook it says that If my shift is cancelled with less then A two week notice and is not because of anyfalut of my own “you may earn 2 hours compensation” and it gives me a list of acceptable duties that i can do to to make up thise two hours it also said that it is my responsibility to to contact the manager to schedule these opportunities for compensation, and if i take no action to do so then i forfeit the compensation.. well i did take action and tried to schedule this with my boss but they told me That They would not be scheduling any shifts or time to make up these hours and receive compensation.. and They also told me just because its says that in the handbook does not mean that I am entitled to it they said the hand book is just a guide!! is this right??

  • Brielle

    I work Monday-Friday 8am-5pm with lunch from 12-1 and no rest breaks. Is this legal? My store is in rancho Cordova, ca, with three people working there and the corporate office is in Irvine, Ca, with 13 workers. The owner is down in Irvine and the Vice President at my store. They docked my pay one paycheck by 2.5 hours and another 7 hours with no explanation on why. I brought it to my HR persons attention in 5 separate emails and no word back. Today I open the office mail as I am supposed to do (I am or was an office manager) and it is my final paycheck dated for 7/23. The owner filed termination yesterday 7/21 at 2:21 pm 30 minutes after I said in an email it is illegal to dock my pay when I’ve worked 80 hours (not to mention I’ve never been paid over time and have at least 95-100 hours on every paycheck, they say they don’t pay overtime). We have a cloud network with a shared data file and every employee has their own file and its public to the other employees and I saw in my HR ladies folder the above stated file of termination (which so can every other employee). My boss came in late today after I found my last check and said “I just spoke with (the owner) and he said he had a check for you, I was confused and asked for what and he stated he was going to have me let you go on Friday but you apparently found the final paycheck before then”. I asked my boss why am I fired and he said he has no idea and it’s a huge shock to him. I’ve made the company $208,238 in 5 months of working there. I was supposed to receive a raise after 90 days (in my contract) and never received it. I put in writing my raise and dock of pay with no reason and next I know I’m fired minutes after. Is it legal to take an hour lunch with no rest breaks as well as not pay over time for a non exempt employee? I want to go to the labor board but need to know my rights!

    • Stu Pidaso

      Are you am exempt or non-exempt manager? Researching that should tell you about the break and overtime situation. If you are missing 2 months of contracted raises that is worth a trip to the Labor Commission. It also sounds like retaliation the timing of your firing- DO NOT SETTLE FOR LESS MONEY BECAUSE OF THAT! The negotiating with the Labor Commission will go in your favor.

      Since there is widely available information from HR see if anything medical is available for random employees to click on. HIPPA says they can not broadcast medical information.

      When you call in try to keep the story elements to a minimum. Those poor people are understaffed and really busy, and often there will be a language barrier. Make a bullet list of facts. Hours, Break Times, Duties, Pay rates, Paid Time, contractual obligations Just the facts, mam., to ease your process. It might be a good idea to have a 1 – 2 page outline and just go in.

      • Brielle

        I was a non-exempt employee. I have spoke to a few lawyers and they all say I have a case. I’m fond of one lawyer but curious do I even need a lawyer? Thank you for responding. I wasn’t sure if anyone would.

        • JaninthePan

          I think you have a pretty damn good case. I usually tell people to go to the labor office about not getting breaks etc, but this definitely sounds like lawyer time

  • stephanie hare

    I work in a restaurant 12pm – 5 or six pm.. there are no breaks or meal break.. I also work doubles sometimes and I have to sign out within 8 hours and just work for tips or I won’t get to work the extra hours.. sometimes there is no way that I could leave before 8 hours because it is too busy.. Is that legal?? also we earn medical through the county and mine is aprox. 250.00 per month it builds up and then if i don’t use it my employer takes it.. they just took over 8,000.00 .. they don’t pay it I work for it, and the county pays it.. Is this legal.. It is in San Francisco

    • Stu Pidaso

      That restaurant is screwed. SF restaurants are under fire. Document everything.

    • JaninthePan

      Working for tips is hella illegal. Def document everything, xerox timecards, anything written from managers, emails, etc. Go to your local department of industrial relations with this.

  • DeAnn

    If I work an 8 hour shift and am given my lunch at 5.5 hours into my shift, does this violate CA laws?

    • Stu Pidaso

      yes. 5 hours max

      • Garrett

        Not always true if he sighed a meal wavor when he was employed he may have agreed to that time. If that is the case then 6 is the max hours.

  • Marie

    I’ve been working 7hours shifts on the weekend and 3:30 to 8 or 9 on the weekdays with no meal breaks is this legal? I live in Ga

  • Anonforlife

    We’re under new management and are being made to take our 30 min. lunch breaks after we’ve worked only ONE HOUR, sometimes the people who’ve gone on break are sent home right away after clocking back in. Then others, such as me today ie., are made to take our break after and hour of clocking in and are left to work another six hours with no breaks. That can’t be legal, right?

    • Stu Pidaso

      Every 5 hours needs a lunch break. If that 30 minutes is at the beginning thats legal. Sounds like they need to move your lunch forward 1 hour.

      Don’t forget the 4 hour / 10 minute rest break rule. It doesn’t follow lunches it is computed separate though normal HR’s like to stagger them together.

      Those 1 hour go home people are being forced to resign via scheduling harassment- which I am not sure if it is legal or not. They are probably employees management does not want.

      • Robert Garcia

        They are probably employees management does not want…. but keeps stringing them along in case it gets busy. Wouldn’t the employee who showed up for their scheduled shift have to be paid at least for 2 hours?

  • Concepcion Sandoval

    I am an employer and our sales people work from 10:30am to & 7pm. Sometimes our sales guys sit for hours not doing nothing. They are waiting for customer to come in. I give them a paid lunch and free food. We only give two ten minute brakes. Are we doing right with them. sometimes they do not want to take a break. What do I do?

    • November

      1) No paid lunch. Why should an employee be paid to eat? All employees are required to take a 30 min lunch or you should reduce their work hours. Two 10 – 15 mins breaks are legal.

      2) I worked for a company that provided lunch, it was awesome. It created a level of enthusiasm in the workplace. BUT, this was an internet company with lots of revenue, they could afford it. If you can’t afford it, don’t do it.

      2) When your sales people don’t have customers, they should be working in some manner. Updating files, researching the industry, team-building, etc…whatever is needed to advance their skills and take your business to the next level.

      I am not an employer, I am an employee. It sounds like your employees have become complacent and need an adjustment in perspective.

      Hope this works out for you.

  • Jennifer Zapata

    I currently work from 9am-5:30pm with a 30 min break; no 10 min breaks in between. Is that legal?

    • November

      As the post mentioned, you are required by law to take two 10 min breaks.

  • Random to be safe

    Hey, I’m an unpaid intern at a technology company teaching children at various camps. I work 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. I’m not given even two minutes to use the restroom at all without getting lecturered. Even though I’m only 16, it hurts like heck to stand all day since one of my legs is almost an inch shorter. My boss does NOT treat the employees/other interns well at all, and it really needs to stop. Can I do anything even though I’m a minor and unpaid? I’ve kept a detailed record of all the hours I’ve worked and been trained.

    • Stu Pidaso

      Please report them. Screwing with minors is a serious no-no.

      • Random to be safe

        Thank you very much for your reply. My employee has become nicer and is about to start paying me minimum wage even though I still can’t get that much of a break. I’m still recording in case however. To whom can I send the information into?

        • JaninthePan

          Contact your local department of industrial relations. Unpaid interns are not supposed to be doing the actual work of the company but learning about the industry. If you’re disabled, they need to accomodate your needs for seating, etc. And being school-aged puts a lot of restrictions on the hours they can use you. Of course they should also be giving you your 10 minute breaks as well as your meal period. The people at industrial relations should be able to help you.

  • Heywood Jablowme

    Concerning breaks….the employer can require you to remain on the premises, but can they require you to remain in the building, thereby not allowing anybody to go outside and smoke? The company my son in law works for just declared this today…

  • Wants to know

    What is the earliest legally that my boss can make me go to lunch, for example I started today at 9:00 am and my manager sent me to lunch @ 10:43 am???

    • Lilly

      I believe you have to work at least 3 hours before taking a lunch break.

  • o.l

    I work in Los Angeles CA for an ambulance company. I work 10 hour shift straight no breaks in between, lunch request get denied . Am I entiltled an extra hour of pay. Our company also made us sign a lunch waiver, but to what I am told if we request a lunch that waiver does not apply.

    • Jianna

      Hell yes you can. Many companies force their employees to sign these waivers. That’s why California law states the employee can at anytime change their mind. 10 hours is way too long to work without any break.

  • alicia fuoco

    Question… on the other side… do I HAVE to take a 30 if I know, as well as my manager on duty, for a fact that I will not be working to or over six hours… if I work 4:57 hours I either need to go on break or figure out how to clock off in three minutes. If im at 5:03 and I only have 15 more minutes of work I am forced to take a 30 no ifs ands or buts… can they do that ?? I dont want to spend 30 more minutes there for 5 more minutes of work…. thank you !

  • Ashlee Meyer

    Ok I’m a little confused how many 10 min breaks are you entitled to if you work a 5 hour shift. I am a lead generator I literally have to just stand there and talk all day. I don’t get to walk around and the place I work in don’t let us move our pad from behind our table yet our company wants us to catch people before they see the table so we have to stand to the side.

  • Ashlee Meyer

    Ok I’m a little confused how many 10 min breaks are you entitled to if you work a 5 hour shift. I am a lead generator I literally have to just stand there and talk all day. I don’t get to walk around and the place I work in don’t let us move our pad from behind our table yet our company wants us to catch people before they see the table so we have to stand to the side.

  • Javier Roman-Luna

    I’m an unloader and work for union Pacific in mira loma ca. I used to be hired threw company until they switched over to temp to hire agency, I Work From 6am-5pm with no breaks and an unpaid 1hr lunch at 11am or 12pm. And now they want us to stay till 6pm. Mandatory.
    Note my long week schedule is mon,tues,friday,sat,sun short week: Wednesday Thursday but Sunday counts as the beggining of my short week. We have about 25-35 unloaders and I know someone already sueing them for violation of state labor laws, and after 7 months being offerd a settlement, Help me figure out what to do and how to adress this please and thanks.

    • JaninthePan

      A bunch of you need to get together and see a labor lawyer. That scheduling is crazy.

  • john doe

    What is the absolute latest an employee can take their first break if working an 8 1/2 hour day?

    • Lilly

      No later than your 5th hour

  • Ryan Moulton

    I am a manager in California of 50+ people in CA. I have a WFM group managing scheduling and breaks/lunches for my people in a different state where laws are different and for which I have no control nottr am I informed of the schedules. Where does the liability fall if they fail to recognize the CA late lunching laws? Does the ultimate legal responsibility fall on me because I am the direct manager?

  • Chase

    If you work a 8 hour work day and are off the clock for 30 minutes during lunch then its only a 7/12 hour work day? In this case I would only be entitled to 1 ten minute break? or would I still be entitled to 2 breaks?

  • just wondering

    what are the perameters of a break? when does a break start and end? I have been working event security and the designated break area is often a several minute walk away, and many times you have to walk through crowds/throngs to get to it. (One time it was over a block away from the event building in a parking lot) When does your break start, upon leaving the post or sitting down in the designated break area? What are the terms used to define breaks. Can an employer state you are to use your ten-minute break as a bathroom break or to get a drink of water? Must an employer supply access to water in the break area? How long must the employer keep the break sheets signed by the employees? What if the employers (or the person who relieves, in this case a security guard, during their break) regularly ask employees to sign blank break sheets or time sheets at the end of the day that don’t reflect the actual times the breaks were taken.

    • JaninthePan

      They specifically cannot count any restroom breaks as your rest break. If you use the restroom during your lunch break that’s still part of lunch but if you go to the restroom during your shift they cannot call that your rest break or deduct it from your break time.

  • just wondering

    What if you are told to go to the bathroom and get a drink of water on your break? Is a break only to take you away from the work area and give you a break away from you work. What about getting to the break area? Is the time taken to get to and return from the designated break area included in the 10-minute break, or does the break begin when you reach the designated break area?

  • Margaret

    Question: I have a small shop and our employee works 9 hours a day. I was told if they agree to take their lunch on the premises I am to pay them 8 hours regular pay and 1 hour of overtime. Is this acceptable if employee agrees or am I in violation?

  • Pamela Rosen

    Are these breaks paid time or are they off the clock? I understand that lunch is off the clock, but what about the two ten-minute breaks entitled to an employee in an eight hour day as a non-exempt employee?

    • Brian

      Under Federal law (FLSA), breaks shorter than 20 minutes are paid.

  • akellz

    I have a question: Can I be held to disciplinary actions at work if I told a customer that I was off the clock?

  • Krystal

    I am a social worker at an Adult Day Health Center. I work 8 hours Mon-Wed and 6 hours Thursday-Friday. I want to know if I can legally opt-out of my lunch and leave 30mins early Mon-Wed if both my employer and I agree? Is that legal?

  • Ryan Michelle Jacobson

    Here’s an interesting one. My boss schedules people 15 minutes less than any cutoff for meal periods such as 7:45, or 5:45, and even on the “almost” 6 hour shifts, the employees are told that we only get one 10 minute break. We aren’t asked to waive our meal break.

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

      If you work over 5 hours, you are supposed to get a 30-minute meal break that must start no later than the end of the fifth hour. Unless you signed a meal break waiver (and don’t revoke it), in which case, your meal break is waived SO LONG AS you don’t work over 6 hours. It sounds to me like you signed a meal break waiver. You should try to find it. Even if you have, you still have the right to change your mind and “revoke” it in writing.

  • MSAbbott

    I have a question. I work in food service, and my boss sends me on my meal break as soon as I begin my shift. If I work a full 8 hour shift, is it legal for her to do that?

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

      That should not be happening as it is an obvious circumvention of the meal break requirement. You should file a complaint with the labor board.