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. Anna on October 31, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    I work for a major Airline at SFO.
    I work on a part/time basis; hours fluctuate as 4hour/5day, 5hour/5day, 6hour/4day depending on the number of agents employed and the need for coverage throughout the work day.
    Our shifts change twice a year.
    Speaking to the 5hour/5day work week, our employer made us take a half hour unpaid lunch break so as to specifically lengthen our day to make our shifts overlap for uninterrupted worker coverage.
    Shouldn’t we have been paid the .5 hour since the shift was under 6 hours and just have been given a break?

    • Eugene Lee on October 31, 2017 at 5:30 pm

      Sorry, the answer is no. Meal breaks do not have to be paid. If the meal breaks go over 1 hour, you may be able to claim a split shift violation. But you can’t generally go after an employer for making you take an unwanted meal break. The employer has the right to control your schedule. Meal breaks can be waived, so long as BOTH the employer and the employee agree to it. Here, the employer is not agreeing to it.

      • Anna on November 1, 2017 at 10:57 am

        Thanks for that Mr Lee.
        I do understand that meal breaks do not have to be paid and that the employer has the right to set whatever schedule it requires to run its operation. Not questioning that.
        My only concern was that we, the employees did offer to waive our meal break and work the 5.5 hours for 5.5 pay since the law certainly allows for that. Unfortunately they wouldn’t agree to it.
        Thanks for the clarification…..

  2. Yorze on October 30, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    I recently got terminated from work for lunch violations . I was not aware that I could get terminated for lunch violations. I didn’t know how many write ups it took to get fired . I did get write ups that i did sign. When management brought the write ups they would just tell me I was late . Late to lunch ? Late to work ? They never went through the process of saying hey this your first . This your final . Ect. I feel completely blind sided . A lot of my ex co workers didn’t realize this could happen as well up until I was terminated. Everyone was left in the dark. Even now they haven’t completely addressed the issue . From what I’m told your points don’t erase after a certain period . They stay on there . Another thing my ex coworkers are not aware of. Management themselves are admitting to them not handling the process correctly. Any advice ?

  3. Mandi Alexander on October 29, 2017 at 8:44 am

    My boss says that I can only take a 30 min break if I work over 6 hours in one shift. For one 6 hour shift I only take one 10 minute break, is that legal?

    • Jessica S on October 30, 2017 at 12:51 pm

      Mandi,

      California law states that You cannot employ someone for a work period of more than five hours without providing an unpaid, off-duty meal period of at least 30 minutes. The first meal period must be provided no later than the end of the employee’s fifth hour of work (which means that the employer has until 5:59 hours worked to allow you your break)

      However, there is an exemption to this – You can fill out a “Meal Break Waiver” which would allow you to NOT take a paid break if you are working a maximum of 6 hours. This may be something that you signed when you were hired? In that case, it is legal that they not give you a break.

      While it may seem that this is making you work a long time without a break and “mean” on the part of the employer, keep in mind that the 30 min break is UNpaid – so signing a Meal Break Waiver like this would allow you to be paid for the full 6 hours.

      Many employees do sign this, hoping to minimize the amount of unpaid time spent at the job-site. But signing it is up to you and whether or not you feel you can work 6 hours with only your 10 minute break. While I have not seen it done, I do believe that you have the ability to revoke this waiver at any time (would need to be done in writing).

      Hope that helps!

      Jessica
      Qualifications: in house HR at multiple companies over past 5 years

      • Eugene Lee on October 30, 2017 at 1:08 pm

        Jessica nailed it!

        Just keep in mind there is a difference between a “meal break waiver” and an “on-duty meal consent”. The first is an agreement for you to skip your meal break. The second is an agreement that must be in writing where you to continue to work while eating because the nature of your job requires it.

    • Josh on May 13, 2024 at 6:31 pm

      For 3 years i have been working for a company and they keep me really busy where i feel like i dont have time to take my lunch or breaks which i work a 12 hour days , but if i took a lunch and a break it would definitely make it 14 hour day . Im a Truck driver , My question is the company obviously could see that i clock out in one city and clock back in another city . Isnt it there responsibility to tell me i need to take my lunch and breaks ? Can i sue ?

  4. Yana on October 28, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    My mom started working as a tailor for a department store. She works 5hrs a day. Her employer said that she is not allowed to take a 10 minute break.The employer said that if you go to the bathroom and wash your hands – that is considered a break. That sounds illegal. The other women that work with my mom work up to 8hrs a day and the employer does not allow them to take lunch.

    • Eugene Lee on October 29, 2017 at 8:37 am

      Bathroom breaks cannot be counted as rest breaks. Since your mom works a 5 hour shift, she is supposed to get one 10-minute paid rest break per day. For the coworkers working 8 hours a day, they are supposed to get one 30-minute unpaid meal break and two 10-minute paid rest breaks. The rest breaks should be separate and on either side of the meal break.

      Your mom should consider filing a labor board claim.

  5. Anonymous on October 28, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    My husband works as a porter at a car dealership and he does not get his hour lunch as he is supposed to. His manager gets upset when he leaves at his 8th hour on days he isn’t given his break when on the day he got hired he was told it was ok to do so if he did not receive a lunch. He goes on deliveries to deliver cars that have been sold to the customer and neither before or after is he ever told to take a lunch. Should this be reported. There are other employees that are also affected by this as well.

    • Eugene Lee on October 28, 2017 at 9:46 pm

      If he wants his lunch break, I recommend he bring up the missed lunches to his supervisors IN WRITING (text or email). If they don’t fix the problem, then he should consider filing a labor claim.

  6. Edgar on October 27, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    So how can I start.ok I work in a winery and it’s harvest time for me.i work 12 hour days and my 8 hours of work I take with lunch and all.but my employer doesn’t want want to take a break after my 8 hours and at my 10 hour to take a lunch and and finish my day of 12 hours…..oh And it’s past my 40 regular hours by the way?

    • Eugene Lee on October 28, 2017 at 10:59 am

      If you’re working 12 hour shifts, you must be allowed to take TWO 30-min unpaid meal breaks (no later than the end of the fifth and the tenth hours into your shifts) where you are allowed to leave the site and do what you want with your break time, and THREE paid 10-min rest breaks, where the employer can require you to stay on site but not on call. The rest breaks and meal breaks should alternate to the extent practicable. As for overtime, you must be paid overtime premiums for any work over 8 hours in a day, or 40 hours in a week, or any hours worked on the seventh consecutive day (in an employer-defined work week). If the employer isn’t doing the above, you should consider filing a labor board claim

  7. Kay on October 27, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    If an employer makes you work seven hours and 15 min . Gives you a 10 min break after 3 hours and hours later combines a 30 min lunch with a 10 min break is this legal?

    • Eugene Lee on October 27, 2017 at 5:14 pm

      Rest and meal breaks must be taken separately, they cannot be combined. There are some industry-specific exceptions. But generally, no, that’s not legal. A 7.25 hour shift entitles you to a 30-min meal break and two separate 10-min rest breaks. The rest breaks should, to the extent practicable, be on opposite sides of the meal break, or so the California Supreme Court has said in a 2012 case called Brinker v Sup. Ct.

  8. Gabriela Maldonado on October 27, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Hello, I was injured at work and now back to the same job but with job restrictions that I can work 6 hours per day, 5 days per week with a 10 min stretching break every hour. My company gives two 15 min breaks to workers working 6 hours or more. I was told that since I am taking a 10 minutes break every hour, 2 of them can be 15 instead of the 10, is this right?

    • Eugene Lee on October 27, 2017 at 5:17 pm

      Well, the rest break laws only entitle you to two TEN minute rest breaks, although many companies like to offer 15 minute rest breaks. Legally, however, you are not entitled to demand that rest breaks be 15 minutes, instead of 10 minutes. I think your employer is correct in this situation.

  9. Amy on October 27, 2017 at 7:18 am

    So if I work from 230 am to about 130 or 230 do I HAVE to clock out for a second 30 min meal?

    • Eugene Lee on October 27, 2017 at 8:00 am

      The law does not require you to clock out for a meal break if you don’t want to take it. On the other hand, the employer has the right to discipline employees who fail to take their meal breaks on time. What is NOT allowed is for an employer to force an employee to clock out for a lunch that the employee never takes and instead works through. If the employer is aware that that is happening, then they are subject to penalties.

  10. Heather Barrett on October 26, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    What about breaks for Ag workers? We have guys in the field who are walking to their cars, etc. and so the 10 minute break is stretching into more like 20 minutes. Are we allowed to keep them in the field for the break and/or reign in the time to 10 minutes only?

    • Eugene Lee on October 26, 2017 at 7:19 pm

      Employers can require workers to remain on premises during 10 minute rest breaks. If workers are stretching rest breaks to more than 10 minutes, then employers have the right to discipline them.

  11. dan on October 26, 2017 at 7:01 am

    I have a question about my work day

    I was hired under part time status so my schedule shows 5 hr days.
    i also only receive part time benefits.

    Clock in
    2.5hrs/3 in 15 min break
    right after break they mandate overtime either by seniority or shifts/ all shits.
    5.5 hrs in 30 min lunch
    8.0 hrs in second 15 min break
    10hr/11.5 hr in either we are released or i break myself next shift supervisor no longer calls break.

    If we are not released we take second lunch at 12 hrs and come back to finish.

    • dan on October 26, 2017 at 7:02 am

      Question was if they are breaking any laws

    • Eugene Lee on October 26, 2017 at 7:17 pm

      If you are working on the clock over 10 hours, you must be permitted to take two unpaid lunch breaks and three paid rest breaks. It has nothing to do with part time or full time status.

  12. Wen S on October 26, 2017 at 6:02 am

    I don’t think anyone asked this yet…I am pretty clear on the lunch break before the 5th hour thing. If I happen to be scheduled to work 5.5 hrs, I’ll have to speak with my employer regarding waiving lunch break right? In that case, do I get paid for 5.5hrs+30 mins of lunch break that I waived to take? Or just 5.5 hrs?

    • Eugene Lee on October 26, 2017 at 7:15 pm

      If you agree to waive lunch, then lunch is not a factor at all. You simply treat lunch as something you are not entitled to and you get paid for all time actually worked. In your scenario, that would be 5.5 hours.

    • Nathan on October 27, 2017 at 1:43 pm

      You would be paid the 5.5 hrs and 1 extra he as a bonus for missing your lunch. Your employer is required to pay you an extra hour of pay if you give up your lunch break.

      • Eugene Lee on October 27, 2017 at 5:18 pm

        I generally agree with Nathan, but this assumes you wanted your lunch break but were denied or prevented from taking it. If you voluntarily skipped the meal break, you would not be entitled to 1 extra hour as a “bonus” for missing lunch. That only applies if your missing lunch was involuntary.

  13. Jannette Nuno on October 25, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    At my previous job, at one point I was the only employee. I worked 7 days straight, no breaks no lunches. They’re was no option as I was the only employee in the store for 12hr days sometimes longer. If I don’t take lunch breaks I believe an extra hour is supposed to be added to my paycheck as a meal penalty fee. Since in that particular time frame my typical work day was 12 hours I’m entitled to two lunch breaks. If I didn’t get that second lunch would the employer have to add a second penalty lunch fee per day?

    • Jane doe on October 26, 2017 at 3:31 pm

      You should contact a lawyer, it does not matter that you were the only employee in the store they can not require you to skip lunch they must pay you 1 hr for going over even a minute past the 5 hour mark and you can NOT waive your first lunch (unless you are only working 6 hours or less) only the second and if you didn’t waive your second lunch voluntarily then yes there should be a penalty also any hours worked over 10 in one day should be time and a half pay.

  14. Andrea smith on October 25, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    if you start work at 8:15am and you are off at 2:45pm, can u take a lunch at 10:30 am?

    • Eugene Lee on October 26, 2017 at 5:23 pm

      Well, you are entitled to take one 30-minute lunch break (and two 10-min rest breaks). The lunch break must start no later than the end of the fifth hour, so in your case that would be 1:15 pm. A lunch at 10:30 am would be legally fine. Of course, your employer has the right to your schedule, so you need to check with your lawyer.

  15. Cristina on October 25, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    I have a question I work for an ice cream shop I’m the only person in the morning I get of at 3 and the other employee clocks in at 3 so I don’t get any of my breaks what can I do

    • Eugene Lee on October 25, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      Submit a written complaint (text or email) to your boss. If they don’t fix the problem (adding another staff person who can break you), then consider filing a labor board complaint.

  16. Denise on October 24, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    I worked 11-7 how many breaks am in entitled to?
    At my old job I would get 2 tens and one 30min break
    And at my new job I get one 15 and one 30 min break

    • Eugene Lee on October 24, 2017 at 9:50 pm

      Since that is an 8 hour shift, you should receive 2 ten min rest breaks and one 30 min lunch break. The rest breaks should be separate from each other and the lunch break, and there should be a rest break on either side of the lunch break.

      Your old job had it right. Your new job has it wrong, it appears. You should consider asking in WRITING about getting your second rest break. Hopefully your new job fixes the problem. If they don’t, consider filing a labor board complaint.

  17. Alan Gilliland on October 24, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    I’ll ask again….

    Can the break time pay rate be different (lower) than the work wage rate. If I earn $21.00 per hour, can my break time pay rate legally be $$10.50 per hour?

    • Eugene Lee on October 24, 2017 at 8:41 pm

      Alan, this is a difficult question. Please give me a call to discuss as I need some more facts. 213-992-3299. I will be available in the afternoon. I’ll be happy to see if I can answer your question.

      Eugene Lee, Esq.

  18. Stefani on October 24, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    Hi! This is very useful. I just want to clarify some things. I work 11am-5pm. I get a 30 minute lunch and that’s it. No rest breaks. I’m entitled to at least one rest break, correct? My employer also has people work 10 hour shifts and only have a 30 minute break. No one at my job takes rest breaks.

    • Eugene Lee on October 24, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      If you work more than 6 hours (excluding lunch breaks), you are supposed to get 2 paid rest breaks. If you work over 10 hours, you are supposed to get a third paid rest break. Unlike meal breaks, rest breaks can NOT be waived, either. So if no one is getting their rest breaks (and they want to take them, but they can’t), I’d say that’s a major problem.

  19. bonita on October 24, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    If I work a ten hour shift-then does that entitle me to 3 (10 min) breaks or just 2 ?

    • Eugene Lee on October 24, 2017 at 4:59 pm

      Just 2. If you work over 10 hours, you get a third rest break. Remember, you have to exclude any unpaid lunch breaks too, they don’t count as part of your hours worked.

  20. Alan Gilliland on October 24, 2017 at 6:47 am

    Can the break time pay rate be different (lower) than the work wage rate. If I earn $21.00 per hour, can my break time pay rate legally be $$10.50 per hour?

  21. Andrea on October 24, 2017 at 2:09 am

    I work from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM with a 30 minute lunch break. How much rest break time should I get and can I work though them and get paid for the rest break without my employer getting in trouble or could I waive my 30 minute lunch break and get paid for 8 hours?

    • Eugene Lee on October 24, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Since you work 7.5 hours on the clock, you are entitled to one 30-min unpaid lunch break and two 10-minute paid rest breaks. There is supposed to be a separate rest break on either side of your meal break to the extent practicable.

      You can choose to skip any break you like, so long as the employer isn’t pressuring or encouraging you to do so. You can work through your lunch break but you really should obtain prior approval from your employer, otherwise you could be subject to discipline. Regardless, you must be paid for all time worked.

  22. Canton Belford on October 21, 2017 at 11:30 pm

    I work at a group home and 10 to 13hr shifts without a break. Is this legal???

    • Eugene Lee on October 22, 2017 at 10:46 pm

      I think you already know the answer: Not legal at all.

  23. Betah on October 21, 2017 at 3:07 am

    I work for a public school 8-3:00 pm my lunch break until 1:00 pm. 2hrs before my shift ends and my 15min break at 12:15 pm.Can he do this?
    thank you

    • Eugene Lee on October 22, 2017 at 10:50 pm

      Since you are on the clock for 6.5 hours (assuming a 30 min meal break), then you are entitled to TWO 10-min paid rest breaks and ONE 30-min unpaid meal break. The meal break must start before the end of the fifth hour into your shift, which means it must start by no later than 12:59 pm. If that’s not the case for you, then that’s a late lunching violation and you are entitled to 1 hour penalty for each day your lunch started late.

      As for having a 15-min rest break, it should be around 10 am or 11 am “to the extent practicable” according to the California Supreme Court in Brinker v Sup Ct. So a rest break at 12:15 pm seems late, unless your boss has a good explanation for why it has to be so late.

      • Roger on October 30, 2017 at 10:16 pm

        This goes along with the public school question. A 8:15am-2:45pm with a 30min lunch break at 11:30 is all I’m entitled to, correct?

        • Eugene Lee on October 30, 2017 at 10:39 pm

          That is 6 hours on the clock, so you are entitled to one 30-min lunch break, and one 10-min rest break. If you work over 6 hours on the clock, you would be entitled to a second 10-min rest break.

  24. Rocio on October 20, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    Are rest breaks restricted for dental office employees? That’s what my employer said we work 9:45 am until 7:00pm with lunch from 2-3 not paid but don’t get any 10 mins break and we work 8:15 hours with no OT paid

    • Eugene Lee on October 20, 2017 at 10:49 pm

      Dental office employees are usually non-exempt – that means they’re entitled to rest breaks, meal breaks and overtime. Your employer is dead wrong.

  25. Blanca on October 20, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    I start work at 7:30am and lunch is at 11:30am. My employer forces me to walk to the front of the office to clock out or else i will be written up and penalized. I work of the opposite side of the building so it takes me at least 10 minutes to get there. By the time i finish clocking out and heading into the lunch room. I only have 15 minutes to eat and that is me power walking there because we arent allowed to run. Is there something wrong here? Please reply and thank you!

    • Regina Marshall on October 24, 2017 at 3:55 am

      Legally your break does not start until you are in a place off and away from your work station! So technically you aren’t on your break until you reach the lunch room!

  26. Kyle on October 20, 2017 at 7:10 am

    if a shift is from 8 am to 430 pm, is it legal to go on the meal break at 930 am and then 2 rest breaks later on in the day?

    • Eugene Lee on October 20, 2017 at 6:02 pm

      I would say that is a violation unless there is a very compelling reason not to have a rest break on either side of your meal break.

  27. Rina on October 19, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Hello,
    Is it okay for an employer to send someone on their 30 min unpaid break within the first hour of clocking in? Since it’s technically anytime before the 5th hour?

    • Eugene Lee on October 19, 2017 at 10:25 pm

      I’m not aware of any case that says that that is illegal. In a 2012 decision called Brinker v Superior Court, the California Supreme Court held that:

      “Rather, in the context of an eight-hour shift, “[a]s a general matter,” one rest break should fall on either side of the meal break. (Ibid.) Shorter or longer shifts and other factors that render such scheduling impracticable may alter this general rule.”
      Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court of San Diego County, 53 Cal.4th 1004, 1031 (2012)

      The labor board has opined that, generally, there should be rest breaks on either side of each meal break.

      So again, I think it really depends on your specific situation.

      • Steve on October 22, 2017 at 1:28 am

        I’m required to take my meal break immediately after clocking in to get it out of the way. Once I return from my break, I work the next 6-7 hours straight. For example, I clock in at 4:00 pm and then clock out on my unpaid meal break immediately. I clock back in at 4:31pm and then work straight until 10-12am. I’m not concerned about rest breaks, but is this legal?

        And also, would it be ok if an employer and employee were both in agreement to have the employee work a 6-8 hour shift without a meal break? Obviously the employer would be required to pay an additional hour of pay for the meal break violation, but would that alone satisfy all of the labor law stipulations?

        No one at my job wants to take a break. The only opportunity we have to take one is at the beginning of the shift. I would much rather come in half an hour later for my shift, then have to come in earlier only to clock back out and sit around for half an hour before I start work to side skirt this law. I still end up working 6+ hours without an unpaid meal break. Only now I lose an extra half hour out of my day just so I can have a “break” on paper.

        • Eugene Lee on October 22, 2017 at 10:45 pm

          I think that’s a problem. According to the California Supreme Court’s ruling in Brinker v Sup. Ct., in an 8 hour shift, you are supposed to get a rest break on either side of your meal break. That’s not possible if you are clocking in, then immediately clocking out for “lunch”. I’d say that’s a violation.

          Yes, employer and employee can agree to waive a meal break SO LONG AS the shift doesn’t exceed 6 hours. So to your question, no, that would not be ok. Of course, you are free to skip your meal break if that is what you really want, as the employer is under no duty to force you to take your meal break. And of course, if you work through lunch, you should stay on the clock and be paid for that time worked. If there’s a meal break violation, then there would be an additional 1 hr penalty for each day there’s a violation.

          In short, you can skip any break you like (so long as your boss isn’t forcing or encouraging you to do so) but to be forced to clock out at the beginning of your shift sounds like a violation to me.

          • Steve on October 23, 2017 at 12:30 am

            Thanks for the reply! I’ve got just a few more questions I meant to ask that are tied into the previous ones.

            So if I take a break early on, does that satisfy the break requirement for the rest of a shift that lasts no longer than 10 hours total? Or am I required to take another meal break before going into the 6th consecutive hour worked? For example, if I take my break within the first hour, am I clear to work the next 6-9 hours straight so long as I’m receiving my rest breaks and the total shift is under 10 hours total? That’s what I’m being told and it doesn’t sound right.

            Also management is really adamant about us “taking our breaks.” There have even been threats of write ups for “break violations.” I don’t understand why we can’t just work past 6 hours and they just pay the additional hour. Is there any other penalty the employer is subject to? Or is it them just nickel and diming their labor cost?

            I’m protesting this policy at work because everyone, myself included until recently, would just clock out on break at some point during their shift, but then continue to work through it. This is to avoid being clocked in past 6 hours and causing a “break violation.”

            No one really wants to take a break. And at the end of the day no one really does take a break. It seems to me it’s just a matter of who ends up paying the penalty. It’s either my employer who pays the additional hour of pay. Or it will end up being us employees who lose a half hour of wages by clocking out but continuing to work. Or a half hour of our day because we are required to clock in early to “take our break.”

            I understand I’m basically just ranting at this point. I’d just like to hear someone else’s opinion on the matter. Just to make sure I’m understanding everything correctly. Thanks for your help!

            • Eugene Lee on October 23, 2017 at 6:38 pm

              Yes, that is unfortunately correct. Your concern is exactly the concern the plaintiff raised in the California Supreme Court case Brinker v Sup. Ct. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court came down on the side of the employer on that issue. However, the Supreme Court did state that, in an 8 hour shift, there should be a rest break on either side of the meal break.

              The employer has the right to enforce the taking of breaks. They aren’t required to do it, but they have the option. Some employers would rather not pay the 1 hour premium, I guess.

              If you cannot take your meal break within the first 5 hours, then maybe you need to bring that issue up to management. I recommend doing it in writing so that you have proof. The employer then has a duty to fix the problem.

              If no one wants to take a break, then the Supreme Court has been clear in saying that the employer shouldn’t be on the hook for penalties. It is up to employees to break themselves and if they choose not to, then they have “waived” their break. In which case, the employer is under no duty to pay the 1 hour penalty.
              I hope that answers all your questions. Meal and rest break laws are a pretty complicated area. If you have more questions, just drop us a line!

  28. Brian Anderson on October 19, 2017 at 7:02 am

    When working a 10 hour shift are you supposed to get two or three paid breaks? We are being told we get a 30 minute unpaid lunch and two paid breaks

    • Eugene Lee on October 19, 2017 at 7:28 am

      If you work not a minute over 10 hours on the clock (excluding unpaid meal breaks), then your employer is right, two rest breaks. Otherwise, it is three rest breaks.

      • Laura on October 29, 2017 at 7:59 am

        So if i work 330am to 200pm do i take one 30min break or two?

        • Eugene Lee on October 29, 2017 at 8:43 am

          That seems to be a 10.5 hour shift. But you must exclude meal breaks. So in your case, assuming you get one meal break, your worked hours reduces to 10 hours, meaning you would not be entitled to a second 30-minute meal break. You would only be entitled to a second 30-minute meal break if you work OVER 10 hours.

  29. N on October 18, 2017 at 9:03 am

    If my employer forces me to work though both of my paid ten minute rest breaks, I’m I entitled to get paid two rest break penalties?

    • Eugene Lee on October 18, 2017 at 9:17 am

      No – you are limited to a maximum of 1 hour of rest break penalty per day, regardless of how many rest breaks were denied that day.
      However, if you are also denied a meal break on that same day, you can claim a maximum of 1 hour of meal break penalty per day, on top of the 1 hour of rest break penalty. In other words, you could in theory claim up to 2 hours of meal/rest break penalty per day you are denied.

  30. Breye on October 18, 2017 at 7:22 am

    Is it possible to combine and rest break with a Meal break if you need the time to handle something personal (like walk a dog) and your boss approves it?

    • Eugene Lee on October 18, 2017 at 9:16 am

      Yes, so long as your boss approves it.

  31. Michael on October 17, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    First off, thank you very much for this informative article about mandated breaks. It is very useful. I typically work 8 hours in the day with an unpaid hour lunch around noon time. My boss is asking me to wait at least 4 hours to take my first 10 min break which falls right when I typically start my unpaid lunch hour. I assume this is not legal based on your article. It sounds like I need to be given a break in the middle of the first 4 hours, based on your statement below:

    “Rest breaks must to the extent possible be in the middle of each work period.”

    Also, I assume a break constitutes taking that time away from my desk. Can you confirm both of these things? Thanks again for your assistance. It is much appreciated.

    • Eugene Lee on October 18, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      Hello Michael, thank you for the very kind comment! That means a lot to us!
      To answer your questions:
      1. Generally speaking (because there are few industry-specific exceptions) breaks cannot be combined. The California Supreme Court stated in a 2012 case called Brinker that to the extent possible, there should be a rest break on either side of each meal break. And yes, the rest break should be in the middle of each 4 hour period to the extent possible.
      2. During lunch breaks, you must be allowed to leave the premises (or if not, then a dedicated eating area must be provided to you) as the break is unpaid and the time therefore belongs to you. During rest breaks, the employer can require you to stay on premises as it is paid and on the clock.

      I hope that answers your questions.

  32. Ann H on October 17, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    My employer allows the staff to monitor their own lunch breaks. Sometimes we get too busy and don’t take our lunch. Are we entitled to an 1hr of penalty pay?

    • Eugene Lee on October 17, 2017 at 5:30 pm

      That really depends on a lot of factors. I would recommend you email or text your employer, letting them know you aren’t able to take your meal breaks. See how they respond. If they don’t fix the problem, then you should consider filing a labor board complaint.

  33. Rose Anne on October 16, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    My employer does not regulate breaks, we are free to take them as needed. Can I choose to work 8 hours straight without taking a break so I could leave 30 mins early? Does this put the employer at risk of breaking any laws?

    • Eugene Lee on October 16, 2017 at 8:04 pm

      You can waive your meal break, but to leave 30 minutes early, you need to get your boss’s agreement. That is not something you can do unilaterally without consultation with your boss. As of 2012, the California Supreme Court stated in a case called Brinker that it is up to employees to break themselves. Employers are not responsible for policing your breaks to make sure you take them (although they can choose to do so if they want). So bottom line: check with your boss if it’s ok to leave 30 mins early if you skip your lunch break.

      • Rose Anne on October 16, 2017 at 8:31 pm

        Thanks for the response! One more question related to this. If I work 8.5 hours straight through without taking a break, would that count as 30 mins of OT or could my boss just take that 30 mins and call it my “lunch break”.

        • Eugene Lee on October 16, 2017 at 8:42 pm

          If you worked all 8.5 hours, then you must be paid for all 8.5 hours, including 0.5 hours at the overtime rate (1.5 times the regular rate). That is regardless of whether you were supposed to take a 30 minute lunch break. Your boss cannot just take that 30 mins and retroactively call it your “lunch break”. That would be wage theft.

  34. Monica V on October 15, 2017 at 11:15 am

    I am an hourly manager at a major retailer and on the weekends there’s usually only 1 manager to opening and 1 to close. There’s no coverage to take a rest or meal period since we are constantly being paged. Is it mandatory that I work shifts where I cannot take a proper uninterrupted meal period?

    • Eugene Lee on October 15, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      That’s probably not legal. You should complain in writing then file a labor board claim if they don’t fix it.

  35. Just curious on October 14, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    I just started a new job and they told us that in November we will be required to work mandatory overtime. The overtime days are from 6:30 am until 6.30 pm. They have it listed that we will get one break at 8:45 am, lunch at 10:40 am, 2nd break at 2:15, 3rd break at 4:15. Shouldn’t there be another lunch break instead of a third break? Also, What about 10 hour shifts? They have is scheduled for the same two breaks and lunch as a regular 8 hour shift.

    • Rick Cisneros on October 15, 2017 at 4:26 am

      F****** Californians are lazy f****!

      • Eugene Lee on October 15, 2017 at 2:10 pm

        Not the Californians I know.

      • Just curious on October 16, 2017 at 9:04 pm

        I really hope you are not referring to me or my question. You have no idea on how hard we work at my place of employment. We are on our feet the entire time, keeping an constant, insane pace of packing boxes at a rate of about 15 to 20 seconds per box. Doing that non stop for eight hours is very hard, much less for ten to twelve hours. I hardly call that lazy, stupid maybe, but definitely not lazy.

      • Roger on October 30, 2017 at 10:31 pm

        Maybe some are. Inquiring about our rights does not default to “lazy f***s” but rather smart to be informed. I myself need breaks or I’ll go insane. Try working with very physical and very violent disabled students. I love my work and love watching my students’ progress; but I must have my breaks to continue this challenging job. So few are willing to do this as it’s low pay, so districts are always short on staff and sneaking (stealing) your time to regroup or regain some energy back. =)

    • Eugene Lee on October 15, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      Since you are working a 12 hour shift, you are supposed to receive two 30-min unpaid meal breaks and three 10-min paid rest breaks. For 10 hour shifts, you just subtract one 30-min unpaid meal break.

  36. regina on October 13, 2017 at 11:39 pm

    I suppose it’s ok for a employer to make an employee go on a break after 15 min. on the clock. It seems that there is no exact set time, so it leaves it open to the discretion of the employer. Even when I just get back from lunch, I have to go on my break 15 minutes after I clock in. Employer says it is because we are low staffed.

    • Eugene Lee on October 14, 2017 at 5:47 pm

      Keep in mind that rest breaks and meal breaks must not be combined (with some rare industry-specific exceptions). If your employer is requiring that, that’s a violation of law.

  37. Olivia Kim on October 13, 2017 at 10:41 pm

    Hi
    I’m a nurse. I work 7am to 3:30pm. We use to have 5hr rule for meal break.So if any employee didn’t get a meal break upto 5 hrs work, the manager paid 1hr extra hour for missing meal break. Now with new management they do not pay for the missing lunch break, is it legal?

    • Eugene Lee on October 14, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      If you aren’t being permitted to take a 30 minute uninterrupted unpaid meal break after 5 hours, you are entitled to be paid for the time spent working through lunch PLUS 1 hour of extra pay for each day you were forced to forgo lunch.

  38. Jaimee Ch on October 13, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    At my place of employment, they are now telling us that anyone who works 8 hours must take their lunch before the 5th hour begins.
    Example, if we work 8-4:30, we MUST begin lunch before 1:00
    However, we all thought that CA law was that we had to begin our lunch before the 6th hour begins.

    Please clarify. Thank you very much in advance!

    • Eugene Lee on October 14, 2017 at 5:41 pm

      You are correct that you must be allowed to start your meal break before the start of your 6th hour. However, the employer has the right to set your work schedule, including telling you to start lunch before the start of your 5th hour. It’s actually not a bad idea as the employer is including a 1 hour buffer to help guard against a late lunch, for which the employer can be penalized.

  39. Jose on October 13, 2017 at 11:45 am

    My employer is making me clock in and out every time I go to the restroom. Is that even legal?

    • Eugene Lee on October 13, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      Not legal at all, assuming you aren’t being paid for that time off the clock. Restroom visits do not constitute rest breaks. Even if it were a rest break, it must be paid. You should consider filing a labor board complaint

      • Jose on October 13, 2017 at 12:35 pm

        I am getting paid even though I am clocking in and out but I guess they are doing it to monitor restroom breaks.

        • Eugene Lee on October 13, 2017 at 12:46 pm

          If you are getting paid, then there’s no wage violation. If they’re tracking bathroom use, they’re entitled to do that. But they can’t prevent you from having reasonable access to the bathroom as that is a health and human safety issue. If the employer does end up preventing you from such access, you should consider filing an OSHA complaint.

  40. Miriam on October 13, 2017 at 9:40 am

    What if as a dispatcher for a utility company, under a collective bargaining agreement, you work straight 8 or 10 hr shifts, and due to shortage in staffing or emergency response, you get called in or prearrange to work a shift before or after your regular shift. In that case you end up working 16 and even 24 straight hours without a meal break or regular 10 or 15 min breaks aside from eating your meal at your desk. While under the collective bargaining agreement, it is understood that the meals are to be eaten at your desk while working during your regular shift. How would the labor laws regarding meals and breaks apply in this case and would they supersede the collective bargaining agreement in that case?

    • Eugene Lee on October 13, 2017 at 10:38 am

      This is what the meal break law, California Labor Code 512, says:

      [The meal break law doesn’t apply if]:
      (1) The employee is covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement.
      (2) The valid collective bargaining agreement expressly provides for the wages, hours of work, and working conditions of employees, and expressly provides for meal periods for those employees, final and binding arbitration of disputes concerning application of its meal period provisions, premium wage rates for all overtime hours worked, and a regular hourly rate of pay of not less than 30 percent more than the state minimum wage rate.
      [The above] applies to each of the following employees:
      (1) An employee employed in a construction occupation.
      (2) An employee employed as a commercial driver.
      (3) An employee employed in the security services industry as a security officer who is registered pursuant to Chapter 11.5 (commencing with Section 7580) of Division 3 of the Business and Professions Code, and who is employed by a private patrol operator registered pursuant to that chapter.
      (4) An employee employed by an electrical corporation, a gas corporation, or a local publicly owned electric utility.”

      It looks to me as if you fall under “employee employed by . . . a local publicly owned electric utility”. So if the union agreement meets all the requirements of subsection (2) above, then the union agreement is controlling.

  41. Brandi on October 12, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    What if the total amount of hours you work in a day is 4 or more, but not consecutive such as with split shifts? IE you work from 8:00 am to 10:00 am, then stop work and resume later in the evening from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Is the employee entitled to a paid break?

    • Eugene Lee on October 12, 2017 at 2:29 pm

      I think that would constitute 2 separate shifts of 2 hours each, so no paid rest breaks would be owed (since no shift exceeds 3.5 hours). However, there is the possibility the employee is entitled to a split shift premium, depending upon how much the employee is being paid over minimum wage. That is because the interval between shifts exceeds 1 hour.

  42. Vikram J. on October 12, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Is there a software which can help us with time tracking in accordance with the break law? Any suggestions?

    • Eugene Lee on October 12, 2017 at 12:06 pm

      Large companies have them. For instance, if you go to any fast food restaurant, you will computer programs running that flag employees who need to go on their rest or meal breaks. If the employee doesn’t go on break, their name is flagged and a large reminder appears on the screen telling the manager that the employee needs to go on break. For employees, I’m not aware of any such program. Employers have a duty to inform employees of their break rights, but in 2012, the California Supreme Court held that it was the employee’s responsibility to break themselves.

  43. Denise on October 12, 2017 at 11:43 am

    I’m a charge nurse and am wondering if we are in violation. If I work 6 hours or less and leave work, but then get called back to work later, should I have taken a meal break?

    • Eugene Lee on October 12, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      Well, if there were at least 30 minutes between the two “shifts”, then that would be deemed a meal break. Keep in mind, however, if the interval between your two “shifts” exceeds 1 hour, you may be entitled to something called “split shift premium”. But that really depends on what your hourly rate and by how much it exceeds minimum wage. Given you are a nurse, I’m guessing you have a high hourly rate, in which case it is very unlikely you would be entitled to split shift premium.

  44. Nichole on October 12, 2017 at 7:51 am

    I do not receive any breaks I work 7:30 am until 4:30 pm with an hour lunch break from 1-2 which I do not get paid for. My boss told me she gives us a 1 hour lunch break that is why we do not get any breaks through out the day. This doesn’t seem right? Am I in the wrong here?

    • Eugene Lee on October 12, 2017 at 7:55 am

      No, you are right and your boss is wrong. Unlike meal breaks, rest breaks must be PAID. They are typically taken while on the clock. Second, rest breaks and meal breaks cannot normally be combined (with some rare exceptions for certain industries). You should try to voice your concern in WRITING to your boss and give her one more chance to fix the problem. If that doesn’t work, you should consider filing a labor board complaint.

      • Nichole Adams on October 12, 2017 at 8:29 am

        Thank you for your timely response!

  45. Patrick H. on October 10, 2017 at 11:14 am

    If I work from 6am to 3:30pm, how many rest breaks should I get? Not including my 30 minute lunch.

    • Eugene Lee on October 10, 2017 at 4:16 pm

      2 rest breaks:
      1 after 3.5 hours
      1 after 6 hours
      If you worked until 4 pm (and no lunch), you would get a third rest break.

  46. Jessica on October 10, 2017 at 10:29 am

    If I have a six hour shift, am I allowed a lunch break and a 15 minute break?

    • Eugene Lee on October 10, 2017 at 4:14 pm

      Correct. But they aren’t 15 minute breaks, they are 10 minute breaks. Although a lot of employers choose to give 15 minutes for rest breaks.

  47. Oldpa on October 9, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    I start work at 4am, my manager said I have to take a break before my 5th hour by law, is this correct?

    • Eugene Lee on October 9, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      You must be allowed to start your 30-minute unpaid meal break before the end of the fifth hour. You and your employer can agree that you will waive your meal break, however, so long as you do not work more than 6 hours. The waiver is not required to be in writing, but writing is definitely recommended.

  48. Sharon K on October 9, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Hi – I have a p/t job and a bit confused with the break law. My schedule is from 10:00 am to 4:15pm. I have a 30 unpaid lunch break …what about my rest break, am I entitle to 2 rest breaks or 1? The law above said, there are 2 rest breaks for 6 hrs+ (I do have 6hrs 15 mins total) but it also mentioned rest break every 3.5 hrs. It very confusing.

    • Eugene Lee on October 9, 2017 at 1:33 pm

      Yes, it is a little confusing. Even though your shift is 6.25 hours long, there is a 30 minute lunch that is off the clock and unpaid. So your on-the-clock hours are 5.75 hours. That entitles you to one 30-minute lunch break and one 10-minute rest break. Had you hit 6 hours on the clock, you would be entitled to a second 10-minute paid rest break. I hope that clears things up.

      By the way, being part-time or full-time makes no difference in the eyes of the law. You have the same break rights either way.

  49. charleen mcguire on October 9, 2017 at 11:05 am

    i was currently working sunday – thursday. and off on friday, and saturday. while at home on a thursday i got a phone call from my supervisor stating that i would no longer be working on sundays. she also stated that i was to come in the next day which was friday. i explained to her that i had already worked 5 days. for that work week, she replied that my schedule would be updated and i was expected to come in the next day. which was friday. What can i do in regards to the supervisor call ing me and telling me i dont have friday off , this made 6 days worked in 1 work week . with only 1 day off. which was saturday.

    • Eugene Lee on October 9, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      Unfortunately, your employer has the right to set and/or change your work schedule. That is the nature of “at will” employment in the state of California. That is the case, unless you have a written contract, union agreement or employer policy that states otherwise. California does have a requirement of a minimum of 1 day of rest in a workweek (as the workweek is defined by the employer, e.g., Sun through Sat, or Mon through Sun, etc.). The California Supreme Court clarified that you could in theory work 12 days straight without violating this rule, so long as the 12 days fall into two separate workweeks and you had one day off in each of the two workweeks.

  50. Cathy on October 5, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    What are the rest breaks for working 5 hours and also 6 hours. I just started a new job and my hours vary from day to day, my boss said I can take a 15 minute break but to clock in and out. I haven’t received my first check yet, but this should not be deducted from my pay right?

    • Eugene Lee on October 5, 2017 at 9:04 pm

      Rest breaks must be paid and you must remain on the clock. You are supposed to receive a 10-minute paid uninterrupted off-duty rest break after 3.5 hours into your shift, and another one after 6 hours into your shift. It sounds like your employer is breaking the rest break laws. That means the employer is on the hook for a penalty of 1 hour’s pay for each day the rest break laws were broken. You should file a labor board complaint.

      • S on October 8, 2017 at 3:52 pm

        Not necessarily any wrong doing here. I clock in and out for 10 minute breaks as well, but I’m still paid for them. It’s just a way to track breaks.

        • Eugene Lee on October 8, 2017 at 3:56 pm

          Good point. There’s nothing wrong with tracking rest breaks so long as they are paid.

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