California Meal Break & Rest Break Law (2024) – 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.

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


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. 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


  1. Michael Furtado on January 5, 2020 at 1:40 pm

    I have never received a break or a lunch while working for my employer 4years on 01-06-2020. I have never been advised or received a 2nd lunch even after working over 12 hrs. I’ve worked 12 hrs then was required to come home and take an exam at the request of my employer. Which I was compensated at my normal hourly pay rate. Shouldn’t that be double time up until 12am which would be considered the following day? We are required to urinate or defecate in a bottle or bag (not supplied or reimbursed by our employer). Because if we leave our job site and our subject who’s under surveillance leaves. Our work day will be terminated with out a back up case (so we may reach 6 or 8hrs). Because of this many of us have been discouraged on taking any rest, meal, or bathroom breaks. Another co worker ended up with a UTI last week. He left to use the restroom on his 5th hr. Came back to his job site, his subjects vehicle was gone (did not see the subject it could have been the subjects wife who left in the car). And he was sent home for the day. We all were asked to do tasks with out compensation. I have now been labeled as the whistle blower at my employer. I’d like to help my fellow investigators at my current employer. Any help would be more then appreciated.

  2. waleed h on January 5, 2020 at 8:50 am

    I work in a restaurant and work 7 hour shifts. What is considered a “on duty meal break” and how would we keep legal documentation of this to prove is? Does this mean I get paid 7 hours straight?

  3. Sp on December 27, 2019 at 9:12 pm

    I started work 11:27 am and went to lunch at 3:52pm my lunch was long I clocked back in from my lunch at 5:25 which is 1 hour and 33min and then I clocked out for the day at 7:55 will I be ok with taking such a long lunch it is unpaid I do not want to be in violation

  4. Fed up by supervisors not communciating or deploying breaks properly on December 23, 2019 at 12:12 am

    After how many hours am I supposed to get my first rest break? And is it illegal for a superior to tell me that I have to be back by a certain time if it means I get less than 10 minutes? If so, what are the legal repercussions that they can face/am I to be awarded the one hour of pay or is that only if I don’t get a rest break at all?

  5. Jaime Garcia on December 17, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    Can my employer force me to go on lunch break as soon as I clock into work? Before I even begin to work at all

  6. Maurice Anderson on December 13, 2019 at 9:27 pm

    I’ve worked for the same company for 32 years and we’ve never been given rest breaks only lunch breaks, is it possible to sue them for the entire 32 years?

    • Eugene Lee on December 13, 2019 at 9:29 pm

      Unfortunately no. The statute of limitations for breaks is 3 years per a case called Murphy v Kenneth Cole. Meaning you can only sue for violations going back up to 3 years. If your attorney files your claim in civil court, they can assert a claim for unfair business competition which increases the statute of limitations to 4 years.

  7. Rocky Whan on December 13, 2019 at 12:37 am

    I worked 12.5 hours and had my 2 breaks and lunch during the 1st 8 hours which I have a picture of my break card for those days. It appears that my lunch period was taken out of my 4 hours of overtime, can they do that?

    • Eugene Lee on December 13, 2019 at 9:33 pm

      I have two responses for you.
      1. Assuming you were a nonexempt worker, you were supposed to get a second lunch break since you worked over 10 hours. Even if you signed a meal break waiver, since you apparently worked over 12 hours, that waiver would be invalid.
      2. Employers can require meal breaks to be taken off the clock. Normally, meal breaks are unpaid. So in your case, if you worked 12.5 hours, 0.5 hours could be deducted if you took a 0.5 hour meal break.
      There are many exceptions of course, but the above would cover most situations.

  8. Lasso on December 10, 2019 at 1:42 am

    If I work a 8 hour shift from 5pm-1:30am, can my manager force me to take my meal break within 1 hour of me working? I’ll be working six hours without a lunch break then. Can they also tell me when I can and cannot take my rest breaks ?

  9. Gladys on December 8, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    If you work an 8 hour shift you are untitled to 2 breaks and a 30 lunch right ? So is it right of them to send you to your first break 30 minutes into your shift?

  10. Deborah on December 6, 2019 at 7:55 am

    I work Noc shift in a group home for elderly n cannot leave the building because I’m the only staff on duty. My boss wants me to show on my time sheet that I took a lunch break. So for an 8 hr. Shift I show I have taken an hr lunch at the request of the employer but I cannot leave. I am paid for 8 hrs. My question is am I suppose to be paid an additional hr for lunch since I cannot leave the facility?

  11. Audrey on December 3, 2019 at 5:17 pm

    If I have a 6 hour shift from 9pm to 3am. Since it is technically 3 hours one day and 3 hours a second day, do I need to take a mandatory rest period/lunch break?

    • Makenzie on December 23, 2019 at 10:51 am

      you can sign a waiver that allows you to work a maximum of 6 hours with no meal break. If you hit anything over 6 hours you must take your meal break before the end of your 5th hour.

  12. Billie on November 29, 2019 at 4:37 am

    I work 11pm to 7am and I signed a waiver to not take a lunch break, should I get paid a meal penalty?

  13. Josh on November 19, 2019 at 11:52 am

    That’s not legal. Also, the penalty line is 5 hours if you work more than 6 hours.

  14. Romali Patel on November 19, 2019 at 9:03 am

    My employer is changing my time card so they don’t have to pay the penalty for my meal break when I exceed my 6 hour working mark. Is my employer allowed to do that? Is that legal?

    • Josh on November 19, 2019 at 11:57 am

      That’s not legal. Also, the penalty line is 5 hours if you work more than 6 hours.

    • Keith on November 22, 2019 at 1:16 pm

      No they are forging . Your time sheet forgery is a felony

  15. Claudia on November 18, 2019 at 8:08 pm


    We have 4/10 alternative work schedules. Does the 30-minute meal break apply to 4/10 alternative work schedules? I thought it was only for standard 5/8 work weeks. Thank you.

    • Josh on November 19, 2019 at 11:56 am

      I would hope there’s still a meal break required and a penalty if it’s missed.

      I had to look up what this 4/10 AWS thing was!

      • Richard on November 22, 2019 at 3:18 pm

        Yo! This if you and the business agree so you can both make money or overcome a situation. Therefore, both are okay and legal. Everything goes both ways otherwise go to work for the government.

    • Keith on November 22, 2019 at 1:21 pm

      Meal and rest breaks apply to your schedule

    • John R on November 24, 2019 at 8:39 am

      We are short handed sometimes and I am not able to take a full 30min lunch for my 8 hr shift. That’s happened on many many occasions. Also, we have mandatory store meetings every couple of months that last an hour and if we are off that day we have to come in just for that one hour meeting. I read somewhere that they have to pay you for at least two hours. Is this true? I work in California.

      • Makenzie on December 23, 2019 at 10:53 am

        you have to be paid a minimum of 2 hours only if you are called in. If you knew about the meeting and it was put on your schedule beforehand it does not qualify as being called in.

  16. Joselyn on November 7, 2019 at 10:22 am

    My employer is having me take my lunch break within 3hours and 45min of my shift I feel like that’s too soon is that legal?

  17. Laura Mendoza on November 6, 2019 at 9:51 am

    correct me if I’m wrong , If I work an 8-10 hour shift, can I waive a meal period to be taken after the 5th hour of my work day?

    • Joshua Petrie on November 6, 2019 at 9:57 pm

      Every 5 hours of work triggers a needed meal period.

      However, shifts of less than 6 hours can have a meal period waived.

      So if you were to work… wait I’m just restating what’s written above under “California Meal Break Law Requirements”

    • Keith on November 22, 2019 at 1:17 pm

      Yes you can waive your lunch. Has to be in writing and u can revoke it at any time

  18. D. Lerner on October 31, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    The company I work for has been in business for 7 years and has always allowed employees to combine their rest and meal breaks into one longer break affectively 1 hour (30 minutes paid and 30 unpaid). Although there is an option to join the local union the majority of us have opted out and do not belong. Now out of the blue the company is demanding that we all follow union and state law that we take our two 10 minute and one 30 minute as three separate breaks. Since there has been a precedence set of the one long break for the past 7 years can the company now just decide out of the blue to change this?

    • Joshua Petrie on November 1, 2019 at 8:47 am

      Sounds like they realized they can get in trouble for doing it that way. I wonder what the statute of limitations on labor law violations is… 7 years worth of backpay could be a big suit!

      • Keith on November 22, 2019 at 1:22 pm

        3 years in gross misconduct possibly 4

  19. Kevin on October 30, 2019 at 6:00 am

    how does anything get done in California.

    • Joshua Petrie on November 1, 2019 at 9:01 am

      How does a statement like this get passed moderation?

  20. don kaelin on October 17, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    I would fours hours as a school aide in California. my school site has schedule a now paid hour lunch break during those four hours can they do that?

    • Joshua Petrie on November 1, 2019 at 9:02 am

      Sounds like you’re getting paid either way… what’s the issue?

  21. Sara on September 30, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    I’m curious. Our shifts are scheduled for 5.75 hrs. Rest breaks are always provided. And meal breaks are waived. If an employee doesn’t clock out on time is the company then required to pay another hour for missing a meal break?

    • Joshua Petrie on November 1, 2019 at 8:46 am

      If work was done past the 6 hour mark, I’d say yes, that is a meal penalty hour that the company should pay the employee.

    • Keith on November 22, 2019 at 1:24 pm

      Who waived your meal break. It is only legal if you waived it in writing.

  22. Sudo Nim on September 27, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    I am an animal control officer. We work 10 and a half hour shifts but are only paid for 10. The 30 minutes without pay is supposed to be our meal break, however: We are required to remain in uniform, stay in our assigned patrol area, listen to our two way radio and are subject to being interrupted for a call. Is this a violation of law?

    • Keith on November 22, 2019 at 1:26 pm

      Yes. Your break is to be uninterrupted off duty. That’s an on call on duty lunch. You should get paid for it. Wage theft by your employer. I had a similar situation with radio and cell phone. Got paid for never having a lunch. For 22 months

  23. Suesue on September 20, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    I work nights M-F. As a local commercial driver, my question is in regards to going off duty for 3 1/2 hours Saturday morning, then back to work for a 4 hours, (safety meeting only) then off for the weekend. Will these 4 hours be included into my fifth work day, or is it considered a sixth day?

  24. Sharon on September 17, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    My hours are from 7:00 a.m. til 4:00 p.m. I get my first break a 9:30 a.m. my meal break is at 11:45 until 12:45 p.m. am I entitle to a second break?

    • Joshua Petrie on November 1, 2019 at 8:49 am

      Yes, there is a rest break chart above that indicates more than 6 hours worked equals 2 rest breaks.

      • Nan on November 14, 2019 at 5:24 am

        I thought in California, it’s every 5 hours worked a 30 minute break is required before the 5th starts? Our employees are having a hard time clocking in at exactly the fifth hour and they are getting awarded a one hour lunch is there any leeway .

    • Keith on November 22, 2019 at 1:28 pm

      A second and a third

  25. Maria Soltero on September 12, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    Is it legal for a company not to have a place to eat? A break room?

  26. Adam Lucas on September 9, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Is there some kind of form I can fill out to waive this requirement? I work 7:00 AM to 5:30 PM during the week, and there are times where being forced to take a lunch break before my fifth hour is impractical due to the nature of the business. My company is getting tired of having to pay me that extra hour’s wage, and I’m tired of being forced to abandon whatever projects I’m working on because of time constraints.

  27. Tori on September 8, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    My boss has always given us paid meal breaks but that was the only break we got. Is this illegal? She now says if we want a paid 30 min we have to take it in two separate 15 minute breaks or we clock out for a 30 minute lunch. Should I also get a 10 min break?
    This is based on 7 1/2 hours of work.

    • Maria on October 21, 2019 at 9:46 pm

      I work from 8am to 4 pm and my boss does not provide break or lunch we have to eat really fast ( 5 minutes and come right back to work is that legal?

      • Joshua Petrie on November 1, 2019 at 8:51 am


      • Keith on November 22, 2019 at 1:29 pm

        Absolutely not. That’s 2 hours pay per day plus a 3rd of pay for penalty for never having a rest period plus liquidated damages for not paying you the hours they should have paid you.

    • Joshua Petrie on November 1, 2019 at 8:58 am

      You should be getting 2 paid rest breaks with 7.5 hours of work, or else an hour of rest break penalty pay per missed break, as I understand it.

      Lunches should be unpaid, unless it’s a working lunch, but there’s not enough information to answer super accurately.

      Here’s an example: Scheduled to work 8am–4pm. 1st break should be ~11am, lunch before 1pm and 2nd break ~3pm. This is 7.5 hours of pay with a half hour unpaid lunch.

  28. David Bettencourt on September 5, 2019 at 9:58 am

    I work night shift and the times are 11pm – 7:30am. We can clock in 5 minutes before our scheduled time. We always have had to take lunch before the 5th hour but because of some workers our company now states that we have to take our lunch by 4 1/2 hours. When we work 12 hour shifts they would let us waive our 2nd meal due to clocking out before a full 12 hours on the clock but now they want to make us take a 2nd lunch by 9 1/2 hours on the clock. We are not Union and I was wondering if this is against the law if they want to do all this.

    • Keith on November 22, 2019 at 1:32 pm

      No it was against the law to waive the second meal if you were waiving the first one.

  29. Johnny Samson on September 4, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    So my company is based in California, but my job site is in Kansas, I’m at work for 10.5 hours a day with one 30 minute “lunch” break and the company just changed from three 15 minute “rest” breaks to two 15 minute “rest” breaks. Just was curious as to which state we would have to follow the labor laws for, for one, and for two, is this legal?

    • Nadia on September 22, 2019 at 7:26 am

      Hello i have a question if someone works 12 hr shifts, are they entitled to have 2 meal breaks. I do know they get their 3 10 min break and a meal break. Based on your calculator it says that they need 2 meal preps. Please advice.

  30. Jerry on September 4, 2019 at 3:49 am

    I work for Amazon, my shift starts at 7:30am and ends 6:00 pm. They want us to clock in at 7:25am and clock out exactly at 6pm. That 5 min they don’t pay us at all, so should i be getting paid for that 5min plus the 3rd paid break period?

    • Joshua Petrie on November 1, 2019 at 9:01 am

      I put your numbers in the calculator on this page and got this result either way:

      You are entitled to: 3 paid 10-minute uninterrupted rest breaks and 2 unpaid 30-minute uninterrupted meal breaks.

  31. Lori on September 1, 2019 at 11:09 am

    My part-time job requires that we work 8 hour shifts, with one 30-minute paid break and no other breaks. Is this legal?

    • Joshua Petrie on September 3, 2019 at 12:34 am

      No. To quote from above, “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.”

      Also of note, “the rest period is not to be confused with or limited to breaks taken by employees to use toilet facilities,” i.e. bathroom breaks are not rest breaks.

      Further reading:

      • Andrea Stetler on September 10, 2019 at 8:22 am

        I just recieved communications from my employer Amazon that I will be required to clock in and out for bathroom breaks which will be deducted from my pay. After requiring me to go to the doctor on a certificate of fitness leave and miss work for 2 weeks to acquire a doctors note. They are trying to write me up for one day that I actually drank enough water and had to go to the restroom multiple times

    • Keith on November 22, 2019 at 1:34 pm

      No it’s not. Breaks are required between first 4 hours and last 4 hours

  32. Amador Sagrero on August 31, 2019 at 2:25 am

    Can an employer make you take a 30 as soon as you clock in ?

    • Frances Morrow on September 3, 2019 at 10:57 am

      Im wondering the same thing. My job id asking me to take my break 1 hour after I clock in and then going the rest of the night with only at10 minute break. It’s a restaurant zi I can just opt out for no break. Kitchen and restaurant isn’t even open during ther time they want me to break. I disagree with this. We have up to 5 hours before we absolutely have to break. Sooo I guess im wondering if they can make us take a break when they say or if we can take it anytime before 5 hours. Im Gonna talk ti my hr lady and see

  33. Emmanuel SA on August 30, 2019 at 1:30 am

    My question is that my work is penalizing me for clocking in at 4 pm and clocking out exact 9pm, which makes it exactly 5 hours. Would that make it a meal time violation or not??

  34. Judy on August 29, 2019 at 11:49 am

    My issue is my job wants to give lunch two hours after I start working and I start at 5:30 am and I would like a way to let them know with out getting fired

    • Joshua Petrie on August 30, 2019 at 12:06 pm

      Out of curiosity, what do you find objectionable about having a meal period at 7:30 am?

  35. Judy on August 29, 2019 at 11:47 am

    My issue is my job wants to give lunch two hours after I start working and I start at 5:30 am and I would like a way to let them know getting fired

    • Maria Soltero on September 12, 2019 at 8:42 pm

      I work as a nail technician, my employer makes me take 1 hour lunch, but I do not want 1 hour lunch. I rather leave 30 minutes before. My schedule is 10-7 and Sundays 10-6. Can I do something about this? Is this legal? Can I refuse to take 1 hour instead of 30 minutes unpaid lunch? Now, they want to make me sign a document saying I have to take 60 minute lunch. Also, there was many days where we did not get any breaks. Please advise.

      • Keith on November 22, 2019 at 1:38 pm

        Wage theft. If you didn’t get a break they should have paid you an hours pay Extra on any day you didn’t get both of your breaks. . Yes on the 1 hour lunch if that is their policy. The law says lunch is a minimum of 30 minutes.

  36. Theresa on August 20, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    I do in home care for elderly on payroll and work 12-13 hour days and usually get a break here and there when I am not either tending to client, cooking, cleaning, laundry etc. is this Legal as can’t ever leave?

  37. Andrew on August 19, 2019 at 9:29 am

    If the job requires travel, can a break be taken on a plane during a flight?

  38. Adrian Torres on August 19, 2019 at 12:35 am

    I work as a receptionist and I don’t get my breaks I work 8 hours I get no rest breaks and lunch I have to still answer phones and deal with customers! My boss got mad at me recently and told me it’s my fault!! That I need to go get her and ask for my lunch and breaks? I’m I wrong but don’t you think that they need to come over and break me? Not me going to ask. Ooh but no she eats before me and breaks.

    • Joshua Petrie on August 24, 2019 at 6:22 pm

      From this website, above:
      > “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.”

      From the gov. labor site:
      > “An employer is not required to ensure that no work is performed. However, an employer must do more than simply make a meal period “available.” In general, to satisfy its obligation to provide a meal period, an employer must actually relieve employees of all duty, relinquish control over their activities, permit them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break (in which they are free to come and go as they please), and must not impede or discourage employees from taking their meal period.”

  39. Eve on August 16, 2019 at 11:03 am

    I have a question.
    If my hours of work are from 8 am to 4 pm and take my 30 minutes of a meal break, this means I will get paid 7.5 hours, right?

  40. Darlene Geren on August 13, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    We are a work alternative schedule and we get paid an extra hour if we don’t take our break before the sixth hour. My question is sometimes we are sent for an hour and a half lunch break is that legal ?

    • Joshua Petrie on August 16, 2019 at 5:55 pm

      (Just FYI: I’m not a lawyer, just a guy who comments here.)

      Getting paid an extra hour after 5 hours of work (when scheduled more than 6) is the meal penalty pay.

      If the break is longer than a meal period (30 minutes), you may be due* split shift premium pay (equal to 1 hr of pay at minimum wage according to your local laws**). Read more here:

      *If you make more than 1.1667 times the minimum wage in your area** you are probably ineligible for split shift premium pay.


    • Larry Robinson on August 26, 2019 at 9:53 am

      I work as an overnight auditor in a hotel. My employer request I clock out 30 mins for lunch and not.wonder to fat from the desk. In order to receive myn8 hours..I must additional 30 mins. I’m not being paid for my breaks either. No one else is on duty for my shift of 8 hours a night. Am.i not intitled to my full 8 hours and one additional hour paid at the regular rate of pay each night in work? Please advise.

  41. M K Dunn on August 7, 2019 at 8:48 am

    Great question, Angela!
    Angela on May 21, 2019 at 12:06 pm
    If I start work at 6am can I take at 11:45 and be compliant?

    • ELM on August 11, 2019 at 3:22 pm

      My employer makes me take a 30 minute break as soon as I clock in for work. Is that legal? For example if I work at 10am, I clock in and then immediately clock out for my break and then start work at 10:30am. It’s usually a 6 hour shift. It’s a restaurant, but it doesn’t seem legal to come in to immediately go on break. Curious?

      • Joshua Petrie on August 12, 2019 at 8:05 am

        I don’t know the specifics on that timing, but this part seems pertinent: “…you can agree with your boss to waive this meal period provided you do not work more than 6 hours in the workday.”

        Someone else said they thought the meal break had to be 3 hours in to a shift. But here is the rest of that quote: “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.”

        I hope this helps!

  42. John Minnihan on August 6, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    As an employer, HOW do I document that employees take their breaks and meals timely? Having them sign that they did take them timely is not going to work because they will just say later that they were forced to sign or be fired’ and the courts accept their word as the truth over the employer.

  43. José Buenrostro on August 5, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    I work as a dispatcher for a trucking company I start at 2pm and im required to take my lunch before 7 pm. on some occasions the other dispatcher who is supposed to be here to relieve me of my duties is late and I am forced to take lunch at my desk since the phones can not be left unattended. In other instances I’ve had to work alone on a Saturday or cover the night shift and there is no one to cover me while I go on lunch. Should I be getting compensated for my lunches. I asked my boss what am I to do if no one available to cover for my lunch and she said I am allowed to eat at my desk.

  44. Marvin Bennett on August 5, 2019 at 1:42 pm

    If working over 6 hours are employees allowed to waive their meal break to the 6th hour?

    • Joshua Petrie on August 11, 2019 at 2:39 am

      My best guess: No, not exactly. You can only waive a meal break if your total worked time is less than 6 hours.

      At the end of the 5th hour worked (ex: 8am–1pm) the employer must relieve an employee of duty for 30 unpaid minutes (1–1:30pm) but doesn’t need to ensure no work is performed. So you’d be working 30 minutes for free, technically. Then, if you took a 30 minute break at the end of 6 hours (2pm) you’d technically be on the clock but not working. (I guess that balances out nicely… however…)

      If during your lunch (1–1:30pm) your employer asks you to do work you are now being denied “time for your own purposes” and in effect remain under the employer’s control and thus, the meal period must be paid. (I don’t know if that means a penalty hour or the regular 30 minutes though.) Also, if they become aware that you are working during your lunch they owe you the meal period.

      See for more info as there are exceptions.

  45. Chris on August 4, 2019 at 9:30 am

    My job has me working 14 hr shifts and tell me that I have to take two 1 hour breaks for lunch not sure if that is right or wrong but if I don’t take two lunches and only take a 1 hour lunch they still deduct the other hour from me

  46. Another One Leaving on August 2, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    Small business owner here. Thanks for the page and information — it’s helpful and well written given the rules you’re explaining. It’s both sad and amazing that something so simple as work breaks could become so complicated.

    There is SO much unnecessary regulatory complexity in this state. It has all kinds of costs to the economy that most people don’t even see. Labor law in particular is A) almost ALWAYS written from an assumed-adversarial stance, when it comes to the defining and attempting to legislatively micro-manage the relationship between employer and employee (frankly, it’s exhausting just to keep up with it), and B) ENTIRELY punitive — not a single “positive reinforcement” for job creation anywhere in the code, as far as I’ve ever seen. Creating jobs in California = 10,000+ ways to get hit with stick. Uh, no thanks…

    Six generations of family roots here, and over 35 years of being a small business contributor to California’s economy and tax base. I’m done tolerating the abuse, and I’m leaving California, and taking the jobs and tax contributions with me.

  47. Yvonne on August 1, 2019 at 10:30 am

    I worked for a place as a server that scheduled us to come in at 3:00 pm, work for 30 minutes and then we HAD TO take our 30 minute break from 3:30 to 4:00. I wouldn’t get out of work until almost 11pm and was given no other rest breaks during my shift. Is this allowed?

    • Joshua Petrie on August 11, 2019 at 2:46 am

      Not exactly… the calculator on this page above goes in to greater detail, but this may be helpful: “If your employer did not allow you the above meal and/or rest breaks on time, you would be entitled to 1 hour of wages for each day there was a rest break violation, and/or 1 hour of wages for each day there was a meal break violation.” Sounds like you are owed 2 extra hours of pay per day like that for the past 3 years (which is the statute of limitations on meal/rest violations, see Murphy v. Cole in CA Supreme Court).

  48. ANA LOPEZ on July 30, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    I work for a grocery store and work 8 hrs shift. is it ok to take my lunch before the 6th hour ?

    Also I come in on Saturdays and work 6 hrs but clock out at 6:05 do I still have to take a lunch ? can the company enter a 30 min lunch for me with out me know ?

  49. carolyn barlage on July 29, 2019 at 10:23 am

    please reply soon, I am a cashier at a large and growing well known retail market, the corporation has informed all cashiers that their breaks start when they leave the register, as I read the labor law in concerns to breaks one of the things I understand that my break starts when I enter the break room. Please inform me if I’m wrong. I want to inform the other cashiers.

    • Debi on July 30, 2019 at 10:50 am

      I think this is tricky & depends – are you required to clock out or go to the break room, if so then yes that’s is when it starts – if not I believe it can start at the time you leave the register but going to the break room is optional

    • Joshua Petrie on August 11, 2019 at 2:49 am

      “The rest period is defined as a “net” ten minutes, which means that the rest period begins when the employee reaches an area away from the work area that is appropriate for rest.”

  50. carolyn barlage on July 27, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    As a cashier we are told that our break starts when we walk away from the register instead of walking in the break room.

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