California Meal Break & Rest Break Law (2024) – Quick Calculator + Charts

This meal break and rest break calculator will tell you how many meal and/or rest breaks you are entitled to under California labor law. Just enter your shift start and shift end times and the calculator will explain your break rights. IMPORTANT: If you took unpaid meal breaks during your shift, say 30 minutes in total, MAKE SURE TO ENTER “30” IN THE MEAL BREAK INPUT WINDOW. The law considers only time worked on the clock. Meal breaks are usually taken off the clock and must not be included in the calculation.

Calculator

Start of Your Shift (e.g., "9:00 am"):

End of Your Shift (e.g., "5:00 pm"):

Meal breaks (in minutes) (e.g., "30"):


(The page will refresh after you press "calculate". Scroll down to see results in blue text.)
california meal break law, california rest break law

Introduction

Under California meal break law (which is much more generous to employees than federal labor law), if you are a non-exempt worker, you are entitled to a 30-minute uninterrupted, duty-free meal break if you work more than 5 hours in a workday.  You are also entitled to a 10-minute uninterrupted, duty-free rest breaks for every 4 hours you work (or “major fraction” thereof). If your boss doesn’t comply with break law requirements, they are required to pay you one extra hour of regular pay for each day on which a meal break violation occurred, and another extra hour of regular pay for each day on which a rest break violation occurred.

California Rest Break Law Chart

Hours on the ClockRest Breaks
0 – 3:29 hrs0
3:30 – 6 hrs1
6:01 – 10 hrs2
10:01 – 14 hrs3
14:01 – 18 hrs4
18:01 – 22 hrs5

California Rest Break Requirements

  • Your boss must give you a rest break of at least 10 consecutive minutes that are uninterrupted.
  • Rest breaks must be paid.
  • If you work at least 3.5 hours in a day, you are entitled to one rest break. If you work over 6 hours, you are entitled to a second rest break. If you work over 10 hours, you are entitled to a third rest break.
  • Rest breaks must to the extent possible be in the middle of each work period. If you work 8 hours or so, you should have a separate rest break both before and after your meal break.
  • Your boss may not require you to remain on work premises during your rest breaks.
  • You cannot be required to work during any required rest breaks. [Cal. Lab. C. 226.7]. BUT, you are free to skip your rest breaks provided your boss isn’t encouraging or forcing you to.

California Meal Break Law Chart

Hours on the ClockMeal Breaks
0 – 5 hrs0
5:01 – 10 hrs1
10:01 – 15 hrs2
15:01 – 20 hrs3
20:01 –4

California Meal Break Law Requirements

  • If you work over 5 hours in a day, you are entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes that must start before the end of the fifth hour of your shift. 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.
  • If you work over 10 hours in a day, you are entitled to a second meal break of at least 30 minutes that must start before the end of the tenth hour of your shift. 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.
  • You must be allowed to take your meal break off work premises and spend your break how you wish, since it is off the clock.
  • You cannot be required to work during any required meal break. [Cal. Lab. C. 512].
  • As of 2012, your boss has an affirmative obligation to ensure that breaks are made available to you but the actual taking of meal breaks is left to the employee. In other words, you are responsible for “breaking” yourself.

Note, rest breaks and meal breaks are supposed to be separate, they should not be combined. Your boss cannot give you a single 1-hour break and say that that counts as all of your meal breaks and rest breaks.

Keep in mind, there are many exceptions to the above for certain industries, such as the construction, healthcare, group home, motion picture, manufacturing, and baking industries.

Can I Skip or Waive My Breaks?

Employers are required by law to make timely meal and rest breaks available to you, but they aren’t required to make you take them. That is up to you as the employee. If you decide to voluntarily skip or waive your meal or rest break, or to take them late, with no pressure or encouragement from the employer, then that is legally permitted. BUT remember, employers have the right under California labor laws to set your work schedule, including your break schedule. While not required to do it, employers have the right to order employees to go on their meal and rest breaks. If the employee doesn’t comply, the employer has the right to discipline or terminate the employee for insubordination. So it is always a good idea to discuss with your employer beforehand your intention to skip or waive any meal or rest breaks, or to take them late.

Can I Sue My Employer for Violating California Meal Break and Rest Break Law?

Yes you can, and you should. If your employer is denying you meal breaks and rest breaks, you would be entitled to receive a penalty of 1 hour wages per day you were denied any rest breaks, and an additional penalty of 1 hour wages per day you were denied any meal breaks (for a maximum penalty of up to 2 hours wages per day). We can help you file a California labor board complaint. Give us a call at (213) 992-3299. Note, your claims are 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.

I Am an Exempt Salaried Worker, Can I Still Sue My Employer?

The correct answer is “it depends”. There are many kinds of exemptions under California labor laws. If you are a supervisor, you may fall under the supervisor exemption, otherwise known as the executive exemption. But that exemption has many requirements which your employer may have blown. Also, other kinds of exempt employees are still entitled to meal break and rest break rights. For instance, truck drivers are often considered exempt and are not entitled to California meal and rest breaks (although they must get breaks after 8 hours under federal law). Another example are “inside salespeople” who sell products or services while physically stationed at the employer’s office. While normally considered “exempt”, they are still entitled to meal breaks and rest breaks. Again, consult a lawyer to see if your situation qualifies for breaks.

Call (213) 992-3299 and Get Your Labor Board Complaint Started Now

Feel free to give us a call at (213) 992-3299 if you want to discuss filing a labor board complaint. We have successfully obtained awards for our clients in over 97% of our trials and hearings — one of the best trial records in the State of California. Let us put our decades of legal experience to work for you.

Photo courtesy of cjmellows

3,398 Comments

  1. Jimmy on April 12, 2024 at 5:40 pm

    Can I get unemployment if I get fired for violation of meal compliance? Hitting my 5th too many times.

  2. Jhon on April 12, 2024 at 2:07 am

    Hi! So my work times are 7pm-8am and our lunch break time provided by our HR dept are 12am (1st break) and 6am (2nd break). Is my 2nd break a meal/rest violation?

  3. SFstaff on April 4, 2024 at 11:40 pm

    I started at a sandwich place that has been open for over a decade in SF a few months ago. The staff never took tens the entirety of being open until just a month ago after it took me several months to get the owners on board. How should I proceed?

    • Eugene Lee on April 7, 2024 at 11:26 pm

      You should consider filing a wage claim. Feel free to give us a call at 213-992-3299 and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

  4. Anna Allen on April 3, 2024 at 8:47 am

    We have a nonexempt employee working an eight hour shift who arrives at 5:00 AM and is asking whether it is OK to take his lunch after 10:00 AM as he’s not hungry by 10:00 AM. As the employer are we legally allowed to grant this request?

    • Eugene Lee on April 7, 2024 at 11:27 pm

      Yes legally you can, that would not constitute a late lunching violation. Whether you should is another story, however. I recommend you speak with an employer-side lawyer.

  5. Damian on March 12, 2024 at 9:47 pm

    I’m an overnight hourly manager whom manages a team of employees from 10pm to 7am at 2am I let my team go to lunch and I have to remain in the building during my lunch break due to employees whom don’t drive and choose to consume there food in the building. The company sent out a bulletin to store managers informing them they are to pay overnight hourly managers for there lunch break plus an additional hour to cover the meal break violation due to not being able to leave the building. According to the bulletin the overnight manager isn’t supposed to clock out for lunch and the store manager in the morning is supposed to manually utilize a pay code in Kronos to pay the employee for his lunch and a meal break violation. The store Manager refuses to follow the law and has been informed of the law he’s breaking. I filed a complaint with the labor board as this dates back as far as 3 years and on going in on my forth year now the claim is active I’ve been told to keep track of future violations after I filed my claim. My question is when it comes to does labor code 210 the willful intent to break the law upon knowing the law does the $200 penalty apply and if so is it per incident and also is it applied to the employees claim being paid out as well ?

  6. Alley on March 8, 2024 at 8:02 pm

    A private owned Optician company allows a 1 hour break for an 8 hour shift with no breaks in between. Is this legal? I heard it is because it’s under medical industry and I would just like to be sure

  7. Cleo on March 8, 2024 at 2:34 pm

    My place of work is staying that we have to take our breaks or get written up. It was my understanding that not taking a break Is allowed per California law? Now,this statement from them is coming after they decided that employees must punch in and out for our paid rest breaks.

  8. Connor hadway on March 7, 2024 at 10:53 am

    I work for an assisted living facility and aren’t provided specific breaks. We are allowed
    To eat only when clients don’t need assistance and when we like however that’s not always possible until 7 hours into the shift as I work 4pm -12am and clients tend to stay up late and we cannot leave them unsupervised but 10 minute breaks are not permitted or even mentioned nor is a lunch break. However we are
    Paid through the full 8 hour shift.

  9. rebekah neil on February 28, 2024 at 4:10 pm

    My job is telling us to clock in on the time clock at 7am however, in order to do that you have to log on the computer before 7am in order to clock in at 7am. I as well as others have been clocking in on the computer 10 minutes before clocking in on the time clock and we are not getting paid.

  10. C.P. on February 26, 2024 at 11:46 am

    Is the unpaid meal break required to be taken BEFORE the START of the 5th hour? This is what my company insists is the CALabor Law Meal Break requirement.

    • Eugene Lee on February 27, 2024 at 7:46 am

      No – it’s before the END of the fifth hour. If your shift starts at 9 am, you must be allowed to start your lunch break BEFORE 2 pm (not at 2 pm or 2:01 pm). HOWEVER, if your employer requires you to start lunch before the start of the fifth hour (at or before 1 pm, for example), that is their right. Employers have the right to set break schedules (as long as employers permit lunch to start before the end of the fifth hour).

      • Logan on April 2, 2024 at 5:22 pm

        So what I’m reading is lunch needs to be taken at the maximum 4.59 hrs. The exact 5th hour and beyond is considered a meal break violation.

        • Dre on April 11, 2024 at 6:09 pm

          No, the violation comes in when the end of the fifth hour is exceeded. The above reply was ALMOST correct. It’s not at the beginning of the fifth hour that it must be taken. Only by the end of it.

  11. Dylan on February 22, 2024 at 11:07 am

    So if I open the store and work 6 hours straight but I’m the only person working and can’t take my breaks because there’s no one to cover my shift while I’m on break. Can I sue for not being able to take my breaks due to me being the only person working?

    • Joann casucci on February 27, 2024 at 7:45 am

      I’ve been to stores that just lock the door and put up a sign saying they are at lunch and will be back at a certain time. That’s what the employees were told to do.

    • Eugene Lee on February 27, 2024 at 7:52 am

      You should complain in writing to your supervisors and HR that this is happening – that you can’t take your meal and rest breaks because you have no one to cover you – and give them a chance to fix the situation. If the employer does not correct your situation, that would be a violation of the law and you would be entitled to a 2 hour premium for each day this happened – 1 hour for the meal break violation and 1 hour for the rest break violation.

    • Ashley G on April 2, 2024 at 8:40 am

      I agree with Eugene Lee about giving your employer a chance to fix the situation. However it’s already a violation of the law, regardless if they fix it after you say so and you can file a wage claim for all the shifts you have worked without getting a meal break. Because you ARE owed wages for that time, even if you were paid your regular wages, you are owed additional compensation for those skipped meal breaks. So even if you do bring it to their attention and they fix the situation, you do still need to file a wage claim with the department of labor standards and enforcement.

      • Eugene Lee on April 2, 2024 at 8:56 am

        Ashley, I’ll have to respectfully disagree with you. If the employee doesn’t complain, a lot of factfinders may find that the employee implicitly consented to waiving their meal breaks and the employee will lose their case. The safer course here would be to make a complaint in writing to establish the employee does NOT waive their meal breaks. As they say, it’s one thing to say there is a violation, it’s another to prove it with evidence. I’ve been representing employees for many years at DLSE hearings so I say this based on experience.

  12. Lenny on February 22, 2024 at 7:29 am

    Because of a scheduling conflict, a meal break was taken between the 5th and the 6th hour from start of shift. Is this considered in violation of the meal break law and the employee entitled to receive the meal premium pay?

    • Joann casucci on February 27, 2024 at 7:47 am

      No. As long as your lunch break started before the end of your 5th hour at work.

  13. Lenny on February 22, 2024 at 7:23 am

    Our time record system is not set to round up/down. I have 2 scenarios: (1) When an employee clocks back in from a meal break of less than 30 minutes because of fear of clocking in late (flagged an exception) would this be considered paid or unpaid meai break? (2) While on the last 10 minutes of their meal break, the employee is interrupted by a client/customer/resident/vendor and felt obligated to assist.
    For both scenarios, would they be considered paid meal break or deduct only the time taken without penalty to either the employee or employer?

  14. Edwin Martinez on February 21, 2024 at 12:36 pm

    My work gives me lunch break break format. From my 2nd and 3rd break they gave it to me within the 1 hour mark. Meaning I came back from my 2nd break and not an hour later I got my 3rd break. Is that legal?

  15. Lee on February 9, 2024 at 1:54 pm

    I work part time. I never get a break and never get a lunch. Sometimes I work 3 hours sometimes I work 7…. I can’t take a break due to being in an anesthesic procedure. The boss said that’s my responsibility to take a break. No one can take over for me most times in order to take a break because no one does what I do. What is the rule here?!

  16. Karlie on February 9, 2024 at 9:54 am

    2 questions, if an employee is salary non exempt does that follow the meal break law?
    If the company blocks 30 minutes in the timekeeping software and I choose to come back to work early I am not being paid for the time, but I would be waiving my Meal break premium correct?

  17. Sam on February 6, 2024 at 11:01 am

    Your shared thoughts are appreciable because the general rule of thumb for California break law is that employers provide employees with at least 10 minutes of rest break for every 4 hours or at least 3 and a half hours worked. These rest breaks are to be taken in the middle of each 4-hour work period. If any employer is not following the above rules, then it`s an employees duty to complain about this to his supervisor or Hire an expert employment lawyer in Los Angeles an reliable and profession law firm.

    • John Hohn on February 20, 2024 at 11:58 am

      What do you mean by “appreciable” in this context? Did you mean to say “appreciated”?
      Second question, what constitutes a “day”? If my shift goes from 8pm to 4am, is that considered a “day”? What if it goes from 8pm-11:30pm, then I taka a 2 hour meal break and resume work from 12:30am to 4:30am? Is the 8pm-4:30 am shift a “day”, legally?

  18. Amy on January 31, 2024 at 11:12 am

    We are full-time EHS teachers. My working hours are 7:30 am – 4:00 pm. When we come in the morning, we need to set up the classroom before the children come in at 8:00 am. The children stay with us until 3:00 pm. My manager doesn’t want us to take a morning break late, she wants us to take breaks from 7:50 am – 8:00 am and after the children leave 3:00 pm – 3:10 pm. Is it legal to take break before we start working?

  19. MT on January 29, 2024 at 11:31 am

    My husband works in a “compressed” shift as what they called it – 6am – 6:30pm shift, 3 days/4days. They ONLY get 2 – unpaid 45 mins lunch break. They DO NOT get rest breaks, is this even legal? And now their supervisors want them to take their first LUNCH break on the 2nd hour which doesn’t make any sense to me. As far as I know it should be:

    8am – 1st rest break
    10am – 1st lunch break
    12:30pm – 2nd rest break
    2:30pm – 2nd lunch break

    Are we missing something here? Their HR would just tell them “because they are compressed schedule”. They don’t even get bathroom breaks! They work in a cleanroom fabrication (semiconductor).

  20. Maria on January 28, 2024 at 12:55 am

    I’m a receptionist at a clinic. Due to a several coworkers taking more the 10 minute break the manager is forcing us to sign a form when starting our rest break and when ending it. Is this legal? Also, the rule only is applied to the receptionists no one else. I’m feeling harrast and discriminating. Please help and advise.

  21. Kelly Woodgate on January 26, 2024 at 10:11 am

    If an employee has an on-duty lunch agreement but the nature of their work did not allow them to take an uninterrupted break at all during their shift are they entitled to both meal and break premium (2hrs)? If the shift was over 10 hours and they also missed their second meal break do they get a third?
    How long does the employer have to correct these mistakes? If the employer was notified and has gone an additional pay period without correction can the employee qualify for waiting time penalties?
    Once the employee notifies the employer of the mistake, does the employer also need to pay the employee for all previous unpaid premiums in previous pay periods that were also missed and are now obvious due to these errors? Or does the employee have to request each of those instances as well?
    What about all the other employees they aren’t paying correctly either?

  22. Sally M on January 25, 2024 at 11:01 am

    My manager wants to confirm, if this is acceptable. I am only working 8 hrs today.

    I usually take my 1 hr lunch at 12:30-1:30, but I am asking If I can take a 30 min lunch at 12:30, then another 30 min lunch at 2:15p today since I will need to leave for 30 mins.

    Is this acceptable instead of taking 30 mins PTO?

  23. Alexis on January 23, 2024 at 10:42 am

    I have been known to go over the 5 hour mark by a few minutes of and 8 hour shift. My boss gave me a verbal warning. Is the law before 5 hours or before the 6 hour mark? It states the end of the 5 hour shift. The wording is confusing.

    • Jenny on February 15, 2024 at 6:01 pm

      I’m told that a 30 minute break should be at 4:59 into the shift. After that, it’s a penalty. It’s very, very expensive and really adds up to pay penalties for just a minute or two over the limit, and your boss has every right to get you on board. Clock in and put your timer on your phone so you don’t keep doing it. In fact, just take it at 4 hours and keep it easy.

  24. Tracy Bloom on January 22, 2024 at 10:37 pm

    “You can also agree with your boss to an on-duty meal break which counts as time worked and is paid.”

    Do we still get the meal break penalty if they are paying for my meal break during my 8 hr shift?

    • Jenny on February 15, 2024 at 6:03 pm

      No. If you agree to an on-duty meal break, you will be paid for those 30 minutes. You are essentially agreeing to work while you eat. There is no penalty added to the employer but you probably get more OT if you work past 8 hours.

  25. Kathi Dougherty on January 20, 2024 at 2:31 pm

    I work at a construction company as the only receptionist, I work 8 to 5, I have never had anyone relieve me for my break, or lunch period . I have been at this employer for a little over four months. When I ask him about my lunch or breaks, he tells me., i’m sure there are times in the day when we are not busy so you can sit at your desk and eat your your lunch then. I’ve mentioned to my boss I’d like to go drop off something for the mail or go pick up prescriptions. When can I do that on my lunchtime, he replies “ No I need you here sitting at this desk all day..
    I sit at the front desk from 8 AM to 5 PM, no one relieves me for breaks, or lunch.

    • Patty on January 23, 2024 at 8:56 am

      I need to follow this if there’s an answer. I worked at a Quarry as a Weighmaster. I couldn’t go to town to get lunch. It was 15 minutes in town and I had 1/2 hour lunch, supposedly.

    • Jenny on February 16, 2024 at 11:29 am

      Put up a “back in 30 minutes” and another “back in 10 minutes” sign and tell your boss you are going to use them. He has no recourse in CA unless you have a written agreement to work during your lunch. You still should get your 10 min breaks though and make sure he pays your lunch.

  26. Danielle on January 19, 2024 at 11:47 am

    Good Afternoon,

    We have an employee who worked last night from 11:00 PM to 7:30 AM. She clocked out and was asked to return 2 and ½ hours later to work another shift. Would this new shift be paid as over time?

    • Eugene Lee on January 19, 2024 at 12:01 pm

      That depends on what time the employer has set as the daily cutoff. The default is that each day ends and begins at 12 am midnight. Some employers could set that at 2 am or 9 am, etc. In this case, if the daily cutoff is 12 am midnight, then the first shift would be 11 pm to 12 am, which is only 1 hour. The second shift would be 12 am to 7:30 am, which is only 7.5 hours. If the employee returns at 10 am to work more, then there could be daily overtime if the work goes past 10:30 am. By the way, another concern to keep in mind is split shift premium, given the 2.5 hour gap in work from 7:30 am to 10 am.

      • John Hohn on February 20, 2024 at 12:10 pm

        How long a break can be taken before the resumption of work is considered just another shift, not a continuation of the same shift?

        • Eugene Lee on February 20, 2024 at 12:13 pm

          Every employer is supposed to set a daily cutoff, that separates one workday from the next. If they haven’t, then the default is midnight.

          If the break between shifts exceeds one hour, that might trigger a split shift premium, but it really depends on what the payrate is and how close it is to minimum wage. The calculation is a little complex.

  27. Ryan on January 19, 2024 at 9:25 am

    When taking my 10 minute breaks my employer is making us clock in and clock out (record keeping purposes) still getting paid for those 10 mins. If I clock out leave my work area at 8:30am it takes me 3 minutes to walk to my break area. And 3 minutes to walk back and clock in I am only getting 4 minute rest period. In order to clock in and clock out at exactly 10 mins. Is this legal for the employer. Or do I clock in for break when I reach my rest area?

    • Eugene Lee on January 19, 2024 at 10:47 am

      The requirement to clock out/in for rest breaks is not itself a violation. However, rest breaks should be “net” 10 minute breaks, not including any travel time. So if it takes 6 minutes total to walk to/from a designated rest break area, the total break should be 16 minutes, in order to ensure the employee is getting a “net” 10 minute break.

      The California IWC wage orders each have a section called rest breaks. They state:
      “(A) Every employer shall authorize and permit all employees to take rest periods, which insofar as practicable shall be in the middle of each work period. The authorized rest period time shall be based on the total hours worked daily at the rate of ten (10) minutes net rest time per four (4) hours or major fraction thereof. However, a rest period need not be authorized for employees whose total daily work time is less than three and one-half (3½) hours. Authorized rest period time shall be counted as hours worked for which there shall be no deduction from wages.”

  28. justin zuschlag on January 19, 2024 at 8:12 am

    Break time question for you: I have employees who wish to group their lunch break with the 10-minute break so they can get lunch off the lunch truck and have time to eat too. Current lunch is 8:15 to 8:45, with the break being 8:50 to 9:00. Would this work since there is a 5-minute gap in time paid by the employer?

    • Eugene Lee on January 19, 2024 at 10:41 am

      Rest breaks need to be in the middle of each work period to the extent practicable. Also, rest breaks cannot be combined with meal breaks. A 5-minute gap likely does not satisfy either requirement and could be a violation, especially if the employer is actively setting the break schedule for employees. However, if employees voluntarily chose to take their rest break just 5 minutes after their meal break ends, that would not be a violation of law so long as the employer is not requiring or encouraging that.

  29. Shae on January 18, 2024 at 2:26 pm

    Will I be in trouble if I forget to take one of my 10 minute breaks? Could my employer be fined if I forgot to take it?

    • Eugene Lee on January 18, 2024 at 2:27 pm

      If the fault was yours and not your employer’s, then the employer wouldn’t be liable. However, the employer would have discretion to discipline you if that is their policy.

  30. Anolani on January 17, 2024 at 8:06 am

    Is it recently that the law changed that I need to take my dinner break before the end of the 5th hour I work? When did it change? I typically take my dinner break before the 6th hour.ends. I have never been denied a meal break.

  31. Justin Hughe on January 8, 2024 at 7:00 am

    If I work an 8 hour shift (2 hours driving) so technically working only 6 hours but still an 8 hour day. Can I waive my 30 minute unpaid lunch to not have to stay an extra 30 minutes at the job site?

    • Jason on January 10, 2024 at 10:34 am

      I really want to see what they say. I work in manufacturing and never had to take a lunch for 28 years. I work about 8 hours a day but never 10. My boss says I have to start taking a lunch by law. I told him I would sign a waiver to skip lunch. He is 100% ok with this but he thinks it’s still illegal. If we both agree for me to work and skipping my lunch is that ok and legal in California?

      • Eugene Lee on January 10, 2024 at 8:20 pm

        Jason, it’s the same answer I gave Justin. It’s up to the employer if they want to look the other way while the employee chooses to skip their meal breaks. Employers in California have the right to set break schedules and order employees to go on meal breaks, but they are not under a legal obligation to do so. As long as the employer is not encouraging or forcing employees to skip meal breaks, the employer would not be liable for missed meal breaks. However, the decision is ultimately up to the employer whether to look the other way or not.

        • Jason on January 16, 2024 at 1:35 pm

          My employer ask me to ask you:

          Under Labor Code Section 226.7, if an employer fails to allow or encourage a non-exempt employee from taking their 30-minute meal break, the employer must pay an additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation. The one hour of pay is a wage, not a penalty for each day that a meal break or rest break is not taken. Is the employer released from this liability if the non-exempt employee agrees to waive their meal break?

          • Eugene Lee on January 16, 2024 at 10:30 pm

            I’d strongly recommend your employer speak with an employer-side attorney. In any case, technically, a meal break can’t be waived if the work shift exceeds 6 hours. HOWEVER, if the employee is ok with skipping their meal break (and not because of the encouragement or actions of the employer), the employer does NOT have to force the employee to take their meal break. Employers do not have a legal duty to police meal breaks. They just have to make meal breaks AVAILABLE to employees. Whether the employee chooses to actually take the meal break, or not, is up to the employee. That’s about as clear as I can make it.

    • Eugene Lee on January 10, 2024 at 8:16 pm

      In California, employees can agree with their employer to waive their meal period if they do not work more than six hours in a day. This means that an employee does not need to be given an opportunity to take a meal period or eat under such circumstances, provided there is mutual agreement between the employee and the employer to waive this right. It’s important to note that there is no legal requirement for this waiver to be in writing, although many employers prefer to have written agreements.

      However, it’s crucial to understand that this mutual agreement is a key aspect of the law. An employer cannot unilaterally require an employee to waive the right to a meal period under this exception. Similarly, an employee cannot demand the right to waive a meal period if the employer is unwilling to agree.

      Assuming you work 8 hours in a shift, a waiver would not be effective. However, if you chose to skip your meal breaks anyway, that would be ok if your employer was willing to “look the other way” and not force you to take your meal breaks. In California, employers do not have an obligation to make employees to take meal breaks, they only have a duty to make them available to employees. As long as the employer is not encouraging or forcing the employee to skip or waive meal breaks, the employer won’t get into trouble if they “look the other way” while the employees voluntarily chooses to skip meal breaks. That decision, though, is ultimately up to the employer, not the employee.

  32. Jes on January 7, 2024 at 10:11 am

    I work at a fast food and when it gets busy my job would make us get our 30 minute break first sometimes not even 2 hours since in. They used to do it only when its very busy but now they do it almost everyday. 30 minutes before tens. I feel like it really affects your energy throughout the day. I notice how much i get more tired whenever we do that. Is there any law that applies to situation like this? I know you have to take tens after 2 hours and lunches before the 5th hour. Ive been really wondering if thats okay by law.

    • Eugene Lee on January 7, 2024 at 11:15 pm

      The California Supreme Court stated in Brinker v Superior Court that in a typical 8 hour shift, there should be a 10 min rest break before and another 10 min rest break after lunch, and that the rest breaks should be in the middle of each work period to the extent possible. It sounds like your employer is violating the law. You should consider talking to a lawyer.

  33. Brenda on January 4, 2024 at 11:38 am

    Do meal waivers had to be for each time, of one general meal waiver will suffice for future dates?

    • Eugene Lee on January 4, 2024 at 11:42 am

      There is no hard and fast rule on this, but I believe a general mail waiver may suffice for future dates.

    • Kyle McC on January 10, 2024 at 1:31 pm

      My employer is stating that we are required by law to take our break by the end of the 5th hour worked, and is threatening disciplinary action if not done. I work in a home service trade. HVAC. We are in charge of managing our own brakes. As you’ve stated above an employee can choose to take the break at their discretion so long as the employer makes the break available to them. Can you list where in the California labor laws you reference that. According to the department of Labor to website which has not been updated since 2012 or required to take lunch by the end of the 5th hour regardless if working more than a 6-hour shift. The same employer has also stated in meetings that if we’re working and xome up on the end of the 5th hour we need to clock out and then clock back in 30 minutes later, and if we choose to work through that time we can and then just take a 30 minute break later. Oftentimes I am working inside a client’s home beyond The end of the 5th hour before I take my lunch break and it is impractical for me to stop what I’m doing in someone’s home to then go take a break and come back and finish the work 30 minutes later. Seems like my employer is asking us to commit time card fraud.

  34. Jay on January 3, 2024 at 9:48 pm

    Can my employer make me take a break at the start of my shift and make me work the rest of remaining shift with only a 10 min towards the end of my shift? On an 8 hour work day..

    • Eugene Lee on January 3, 2024 at 11:04 pm

      Not generally, no. In a typical 8 hour work day, the California Supreme Court has stated (in a case called Brinker v Sup. Ct.) that there should generally be one rest break before lunch and another one after lunch. Rest breaks must also be taken in the middle of each work period to the extent possible. In a DLSE Opinion Letter, the labor board further stated that a rest break at the end of the shift would be a violation as it defeats the purpose of a rest break, i.e., to refresh the worker and allow them to recover. Likewise, a rest break at the start of the shift would be a violation for the same reason. You might want to discuss this further with a lawyer.

  35. Alec Zeluff-Grant on December 29, 2023 at 5:47 pm

    Hi thank you for all your work! Are employers allowed to require employees to clock-in and out of their 10 minute rest-breaks and then add the 10-minute pay later to their payroll?

    • Eugene Lee on January 3, 2024 at 11:07 pm

      Not in any universe or dimension I’m aware of. That’s a form of timesheet fraud. Also, rest breaks are supposed to be paid anyway, so adding the 10 minutes of pay later doesn’t fix the problem. The employer should also pay a 1 hour break premium per day on top of that for each day the rest break was denied like this. You might want to discuss this further with a lawyer.

  36. Adrianna on December 29, 2023 at 2:28 pm

    Hello, I cannot find the law stating an exception for healthcare workers to combine rest and meal breaks.

    Where can i find that information?

    • Eugene Lee on January 3, 2024 at 11:12 pm

      I’m not aware of an exception like that. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Maybe it does. There’s a thousand exceptions to the labor code. I believe in the construction industry, the second rest break can be combined with the meal break in certain situations according to a DLSE opinion letter. I didn’t see anything like that for the healthcare industry in any of the other DLSE opinion letters. I haven’t seen anything like that in the new laws coming into effect in 2024 either. Please come back to us if you ever find the legal authority for this.

  37. Daisie on December 21, 2023 at 10:24 am

    I have a question…
    If an employee works more than 10 hours and choses not to take their 2nd lunch break and also opted out from signing a Meal Wavier, can we require them to take their 2nd lunch to avoid penalties?

    • Eugene Lee on January 3, 2024 at 11:16 pm

      First, employers have the right to set work schedules, including break schedules, for their employees, and can discipline employees for not adhering to them. Second, as long as the employee took their first meal break and does not work more than 12 hours, then the employer and employee can mutually agree for the employee to waive their second meal break. Third, as long as the employer permits/authorizes the taking of the second meal break and does not in any way discourage or prevent the employee from taking their second meal break, there is no penalty or liability if the employee nevertheless voluntarily *chooses* not to take their second meal break. However, see point number one above. But above all, I’d always recommend employers consult with an employer-side labor lawyer before implementing any new or revised break policies. This area of the law can be treacherous.

      • Anolani on January 17, 2024 at 8:14 am

        There is no violation of not taking 2nd meal break, and an additional hour does not need to pay in this scenario?

  38. Rich on December 20, 2023 at 9:00 am

    Can the employer send you to break as soon as you clock in for work, example I clocked in at 3pm and they tell a breaker to give me break by 3:15pm and my shift finishes at 11pm?

    • Eugene Lee on December 20, 2023 at 2:35 pm

      Rest breaks should be as close to the middle of each work period as possible. In a typical 8 hour workday, there should be a rest break before AND after lunch. Ordering you to take your rest break only 15 minutes into your shift might be a violation, but it’s impossible to say based on the limited facts you have provided.

  39. John on December 19, 2023 at 3:22 pm

    I have an employee who always wanted to take his lunch late. Even when I would suggest for him to go eat he would say he wasn’t hungry and would take his lunch late. As it turns out this employee was terminated for failures to show up for work and he later demanded that we pay him for “meal break violations”. We never pressured him, never told him to take late meals – it was always his choice. Do we owe him money? We never had anything in writing. We have other employees who do the same and last week they all signed a document stating that they have never been pressured to take late lunches and that they willingly are taking late lunches because they’re not hungry or their wives haven’t prepared their meals so early in the day (they come in at 7am). Are we responsible for paying all these employees “meal time violations” for working past 5 hours without a meal break even though this is what they wanted?

    • Eugene Lee on December 19, 2023 at 3:39 pm

      The law does not require employers to police lunches or late lunches. As long as the employer does not discourage or prevent employees from taking on time lunches, there is no violation. However, if timesheets show a lot of late lunches, that raises a “presumption” that meal break violations have occurred. In that case, the employer must “rebut” the presumption with evidence that lunches were late because of the employee, not the employer. That is where your witness declarations/testimony would come in. In any event, I would recommend you get a free consultation with an employer-side labor lawyer and run your situation by them.

      • Rhonda De Jesus on December 20, 2023 at 8:38 am

        Can you take your lunch as soon as you clock in?

        • Eugene Lee on December 20, 2023 at 2:33 pm

          That depends on your employer. The law requires your employer to provide a rest break before AND after lunch in a typical 8 hour workday. However, if you WANT to skip your rest break and go straight to lunch as soon as you clock in (and the employer isn’t encouraging or pressuring you to do that), that would be ok so long as your employer is ok with it. Keep in mind, in California, employers usually have the right to set the work schedule and break schedule for employees.

          • Angela on March 2, 2024 at 7:27 am

            My employer keeps scheduling me a 2 hour lunch break in the middle of a 5-7 hour shift so I am only getting paid for 3-5 hours a day since I am having to take a 2 hour lunch. Can they do that? Also, when I was hired a month ago I was guaranteed to work 37 hours per week. They cut my hours to 27 per week since work has slowed but they continue to hire. What can I do?

      • Lenny on February 22, 2024 at 7:09 am

        Would this apply also to employees who decide to (1) clock in from their meal break between 25 – 29 minutes in fear of returning late? Is this still considered a full meal break? (2) The employee was interrupted by a customer/client/resident/vendor and felt obligated to assist resulting in the employee not taking their full 30 minute meal break. Was the time taken now considered a paid meal break? Is there a cut off time where it’s considered a paid meal break or deduct actual time taken even if less than 30 minutes?

  40. Kendra kohrt on December 19, 2023 at 8:39 am

    For rest breaks, do the hours have to be consecutive? I mean if I work a 2- hour shift, drive to my next shift and then clock back in a half hour later for 3 hours, am I allowed a paid rest break? Even if the hours aren’t consecutive but I still worked 5 hours in a day plus drive time? Thank you

    • Eugene Lee on December 19, 2023 at 8:51 am

      Good question. It doesn’t have to be consecutive. If you are on the clock for 3.5 hours or more in total in a single work day, then you are entitled to 1 rest break. It should be allowed to be taken as close to the middle of a work period as possible.

  41. Alberto Gonzalez on December 19, 2023 at 6:56 am

    My situation is as follow: I worked delivering furniture goods and assembling them. I get paid for the day. But throughout that day 4:30-5:30 am start time we only stop by to put diesel and buy whatever stuff there is too eat. From there we head to our first stop @7am or so. We work nonstop until all stop have been delivered. Depending on the route we’re assigned too. we usually finish in the afternoon and still head back to the warehouse to drop off returns and still load our next day route. Usually finishing around 6 pm or so. But the warehouse employees must clock in. And clock out for lunch. And us what?

  42. Deborah Shaw on December 15, 2023 at 12:07 pm

    I am fearful that my employer will find some reason for letting me go if I file a complaint of not getting any breaks throughout my day. As part of my clocking out for the day I am given the following message . I certify that I have taken all lunch and breaks. I have always responded yes, even though we are given no time away from the clients we are with throughout the day.

    Deborah Shaw

  43. Bobby on December 12, 2023 at 3:22 pm

    HI I HAVE A GENERAL QUESTION
    I WORKED IN A PHARMACY AND I WAS PROVIDED NO BREAKS BUT SHE COMBINED BREAKS AND LUNCH TOGETHER TO BE 1 HOURS PAID LUNCH TO BE ON DUTY. I MEAN I WAS ALLOWED TO MAKE COFFEE 3-5 MINS BUT NOT THE STANDARD BREAKS
    SO IF I WORKED 9.15 HOURS INCLUDING 1 HOURS PAID LUNCH IS THIS 1 hour and 15minutes OVER TIME BECAUSE SHE IS DEDUCTED 1 HOUR PAID LUNCH SO ITS ONLY 0.15 MINUTES OVER TIME

    • Eugene Lee on December 14, 2023 at 7:08 pm

      The employer is incorrect. Since lunch was “on-duty” and you were paid during lunch, that lunch constitutes time worked. It must be included in the total hours worked for the day. In your case, including the paid on-duty lunch, you worked a total of 9.15 hours. In that case, 8 hours would be regular hours, but 1.15 hours would be overtime hours. Also, it is illegal to combine meal breaks and rest breaks.

  44. jimmy on December 12, 2023 at 10:27 am

    At what point do i HAVE to take an hour lunch? I work 5-5 and would prefer to take only 1 30 min lunch. Everywhere I’ve read, it states that we are “allowed” but it does not state “required”.

    • Eugene Lee on December 14, 2023 at 7:11 pm

      In California, employers typically have the right and discretion to set employees’ work schedules. This includes meal break and rest break schedules. You can certainly ask your employer to agree to a shortened lunch, but the employer does not have to agree to it. By the way, if you work 5 to 5, that suggests you are on the clock for 12 hours. In that case, you should be getting a second 30 minute meal break. If that is not happening, that could be a meal break violation. It’s possible the employer is combining both of your meal breaks for your 12 hour shift, but if so, that is illegal. You might want to talk with a California labor lawyer.

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