California Meal Break & Rest Break Law (2022) – Quick Calculator + Charts

california meal break law, california rest break law

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.

Meal Break & Rest Break Calculator

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.


Start of Your Shift (e.g., “9:00 am”): End of Your Shift (e.g., “5:00 pm”):
(The page will refresh after you press “calculate”. Scroll down to see results in blue text.)

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. However, under California labor laws, they must still receive their meal breaks and rest breaks. 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

3,125 Comments

  1. Jay on August 11, 2022 at 6:05 pm

    Is it illegal for your employer to make you take a lunch break as soon as you clock in

  2. Kimberley on August 8, 2022 at 9:15 pm

    my employer charges 20 dollars per missed punch on your paycheck. can they do that?

  3. Peter Valdez on August 6, 2022 at 9:42 pm

    My wife works 6 hours at a public school and she has been told no breaks and an unpaid 30 minute lunch. This can’t be correct?

  4. Hippygirl on August 5, 2022 at 2:07 pm

    I work at daycare I don’t get 10 min breaks only 30 min lunch but I work 8 hours is that correct I thought I should get morning 10 break an hour lunch and 10 min afternoon break

  5. Maria on August 5, 2022 at 6:54 am

    I work a split shift 4.5 hours/ split for 2.5 hours and then back to work for 3.5 hours. Am I entitle yo a break (10-15 mins) for my last half (3.5 hrs)?

  6. Kimberly Schwartz on August 4, 2022 at 2:10 pm

    Hello,
    As a full time employee who accrues sick leave…. If I have a doctors appointment am I able to use my 30 minute lunch for the first part of my appointment and sl for the remaining time? If I asked my supervisor to adjust my time to reflect my lunch would that be considered reasonable? Or is this something I’m not legally able to do?

  7. Kat on August 3, 2022 at 10:24 am

    I recently received a notice that my employer is being sued by a former employee due to rest and meal breaks as well as other pay issues. I usually never take my meal break on time or before my fifth hour. As of January of this year I had only become aware that if I was not adding an additional code to my time card I wasn’t getting paid the additional hour for not taking my meal break on time. So I hadn’t been doing this for the entire year before since being hired. When brought up to my manager it was stated I would be unable to back track previous time cards and they would be left unpaid. Management stated HR should’ve made me aware upon hire but from what I remember I was never told I needed to add a code to my time card for each day this occurred. Now my question is they have given us this notice to agree and sign the letter and be sent a settlement if we agree to not proceed with a claim against them. Would I have any benefit to this?

  8. Anastacia on August 2, 2022 at 9:08 am

    I am a non-exempt part time employee at a warehouse. I work 6.5 hours. I am provided a 30 minute unpaid lunch but not any paid breaks. Is this legal? I am under the impression California law requires at least a 30 minute unpaid lunch and a 10 minute paid break if working for at least 6 hours…

    • Crystal on August 3, 2022 at 12:27 am

      You are entitled to a 30 minute unpaid lunch and a 10 minute paid break

  9. Monica on August 1, 2022 at 12:21 am

    I just started working at a school that is pithing the LAUSD. I am an office technician we take our lunch put we eat from our desk. If a parent comes in we are supposed to stop eating and help the parents. We are not allowed to move from our desks when we are in lunch. Is my employer able to do this. I also do not get my 2 15 minute breaks. I work from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm Full time.

    • Crystal on August 3, 2022 at 12:32 am

      Probably not. In most cases, you cannot be forced to remain at work or in the work area, or to do work during your luch break. You are entitled to 2 10 minute paid breaks. If your employer has it as 15 minute breaks, you are entitled to those and they cannot force or discourage you from taking them.

  10. Jackie on July 27, 2022 at 9:38 pm

    Can an employer schedule the 10- minute rest breaks as they go meal breaks

  11. Reyna on July 27, 2022 at 3:03 pm

    Is it true that companies with less than 15 employees are NOT required to provide the same break time requirements?

  12. Employee on July 26, 2022 at 11:05 am

    My employee stipulates that we may only take breaks in a “designated break area”. Is the transit time to the break area added to my break time? That is, if it takes 2 minutes to walk to the break area from my work area, say, am I entitled to return to my work site14 minutes after leaving it for my 10 minute breaks and 34 minutes after leaving it for my meal breaks?

    • Employee on July 26, 2022 at 11:10 am

      Correction: I meant: “My employer stipulates that employees may only …”

  13. Mary on July 26, 2022 at 7:49 am

    Hello- We have employees working 12 hour shifts. Our practice is to have them take the second lunch as a standard which must be taken before the end of the 10th hour. Otherwise, it would be a late lunch violation which would trigger the 1 hour penalty. When setting up the HRIS to flag this, would it be set to flag at 9:59 or 10:01 or 11:01 mark? Thank you!

  14. Diana on July 23, 2022 at 1:55 pm

    I work 5.5 hours on the clock and only get 1 10 min break. Is this legal?

    • Eugene Lee on July 25, 2022 at 10:25 pm

      Barring certain exceptions, no that isn’t legal. You should also be getting a 30 minute unpaid, uninterrupted, duty-free meal break where you are allowed to leave the site and do what you want during those 30 minutes.

    • Crystal on August 3, 2022 at 12:35 am

      You are entitled to an unpaid 30 minute break, but do not have to take one if you work under 6 hours. However, this cannot be forced on you. It has to be something you decide for yourself and discuss with management.

  15. Jack Lenz on July 20, 2022 at 5:12 pm

    If you need a restroom break, do you have to wait for your 10minute break?

    • Eugene Lee on July 25, 2022 at 10:26 pm

      No. Restroom breaks are a health and safety issue and should be allowed without restrictions. They do NOT count toward your paid 10-minute rest breaks.

  16. Sherry on July 20, 2022 at 11:07 am

    At my job we are required to take lunch after been there 3 hours on 12 hours shift for 30 minutes is this a requirement. I thought after 5 hours lunch is required after taking lunch we there 9 hours with 3 ten min break

    • Luciano on July 20, 2022 at 6:00 pm

      Where do you work??? Sounds like a dream job

    • Eugene Lee on July 25, 2022 at 10:28 pm

      If you work a 12-hour shift, you should also be provided not one, but TWO, 30-minute meal breaks. You earn the second meal break once your shift goes over 10 hours. There are exceptions of course. This also assumes you did not agree with your employer to waive or skip your second meal break.

  17. Yanet Flores on July 16, 2022 at 10:04 am

    Hi,
    Am I entitled to a 30 minutes lunch and a 10 minutes break if I work only 7 hours. My boss says on a 7 hours shift, I only get a 30 minutes lunch. Is that true?

    • Eugene Lee on July 25, 2022 at 10:29 pm

      No, your employer is wrong. If you work a 7 hour shift, you are supposed to receive one unpaid 30-minute meal break and two paid 10-minute rest breaks. Unlike meal breaks, rest breaks cannot be waived.

Leave a Comment