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"):

Total meal breaks taken (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

3,419 Comments

  1. kj on June 12, 2024 at 2:31 pm

    I work 10 hour days, 4 days a week for a 40 hour week. I am salaried, and exempt. Is lunch or a break usually included in the amount of hours you’re supposed to work for salaried employees? For example, would a 40 hour work week then become a 42 hour work week? Considering that the nature of the work usually prohibits a) an uniterrupted 30 minute break, b) a chance to leave the premises, c) salaried employees aren’t paid their overtime (so not taking a lunch break would not impact pay).

  2. Anthony Paul on June 4, 2024 at 1:39 pm

    am writing to seek clarification on the permitted usage of sick leave in relation to my work hours. I work in San Francisco and my standard work schedule is from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, which includes two 15-minute breaks and a mandatory one-hour lunch break.

    Specifically, I have two scenarios I would like to confirm:

    If I use 2 hours of sick leave in the morning and arrive at work at 11:00 AM, can I utilize my one-hour lunch break to cover the difference?
    If I take 4 hours of sick leave and start work at 12:00 PM, would my end time remain at 5:00 PM, resulting in a 5-hour workday?
    I would appreciate it if you could provide information on what is permitted and not permitted under the labor laws and company policies in San Francisco, California, regarding these scenarios.

    Thank you for your time and assistance.

  3. Karen on June 4, 2024 at 10:39 am

    When you work eight hrs you first break is at the 4 hr mark then break for lunch one hr after first break the last break 2 hrs before end of shift correct

  4. Chris Watson on May 31, 2024 at 3:30 am

    If I work 13 days straight, 4hr shift each day, is there OT that should be included after 8 days

  5. Jennifer Birge on May 29, 2024 at 4:16 pm

    According to California law, is an employee allowed to leave the worksite for their rest and/or meal breaks?

  6. David Jantz on May 12, 2024 at 12:07 pm

    I put in my 2weeks notice worked those 2weeks like i said would. Then my final friday came i turned in my keys and they didnt pay me my final check!? My accrued pto!? Or my quarterly and monthly bonuses!? All totaling around $7k-$9k! Im dead broke now and need that money to move! For gas! To eat! I gave 2 whole weeks notice and nothing not even in my direct deposit account?? My final day was friday and now here it is sunday! Im very obset about this as the only reason i resigned was out of 6months of continuos company miss conducting against me! Toxic environment! Bullying! Discrimination! False violation write ups! Slander! Constant Interrupted lunch breaks! After hour calls unpaid! Conspiring against me… So much misconduct and harassment causing pain and suffering stress and my physical health and RA to decline and arthritis swell up so bad from the stress and stuff I was being put through and I’ve just been living in pain unbearable pain over it physically and mentally and they can’t give me my freaking check after I give two weeks notice on top of that because I was forced to quit basically with all the stuff they’re putting me through and I wasn’t getting any help from corporate or the HR department every time I reported anything I would get written up for some more bogus stuff and they’re just trying to push me to quit before I can realize that I misconduct they’ve been putting me through is highly illegal and should not have been going on and they know there was their bad because a couple days before I even was my last day every other coworker that I worked with here at this location have either been fired or put on leave which shows it only shows there acknowledgment of wrongdoings they had towards me and almost said admission to guilt on their part they’re just happy to get rid of me because of all the misconduct going out that I was pointing out but it’s different when it’s all focused on you and you have four people against one constantly doing it and in conversation of it anyways this isn’t right I have a doctor’s appointment very important one I need to make tomorrow but I don’t have any gas in my car to get there it’s for a qme for my workman’s comp proceedings and is extremely important I get there and I don’t even have the gas to get there now because these people wouldn’t pay me when they’re supposed to pay me I gave two weeks notice that two weeks to know that I was going to be and my last day on Friday two weeks they just fired two other people that were abusing me and and on it past Wednesday Wednesday and what they do they gave them their checks right then and there I was the victim I am the one who was honest and worked the way I supposed I was supposed to and did what I was supposed to follow through what I was supposed to and I’m the one that’s not getting paid still it’s crazy

  7. Anthony Mark on May 9, 2024 at 6:43 pm

    Today I attended an on the job annual training which started 2 hours into my shift. The training lasted nearly 4 hours and my coworkers were asked if they wanted to skip the lunch break and just “push through and get it done” or take a lunch break. Not everyone spoke up, I kept silent- even though the majority seemed fine with skipping the meal break, not everyone agreed. There were no refreshments made available to us but we were allowed a restroom break. After the training concluded, I returned to my job site and finished my shift as normal. Is that a violation of labor law?

  8. Melissa on May 4, 2024 at 2:59 pm

    I’m self employed . Am I entitled to breaks and lunches as well?

    • Missy Wokee on June 12, 2024 at 12:07 pm

      Hahaha!!!

    • Eugene Lee on June 12, 2024 at 2:44 pm

      If you have multiple personalities, then one of your personalities would be entitled to breaks and lunches.

Leave a Comment