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.


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


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


  1. Eddie R on July 31, 2020 at 9:19 am

    I am a Class A truck driver in the state of California. My employer requires us to use a call in system to clock in out and for lunch or if the system is messed up which happens periodically we have to fill out a time card and turn it in or we will get written up. I assume the procedure is to keep a record. But were my problem lies is my company tells us to clock out or face punishment even if we are in the middle of work to keep working while we are clocked out and just take the lunch after we have finished with our work duties. Is there anything that can be done about this?

  2. Michael Peji on July 30, 2020 at 6:44 pm

    I work a 10 hr min MWF to satisfy min 30 hrs full time status each week. I just came back from 3 weeks vacation and found out this Monday that we need to clock out a second 30 mins break off-the-clock though we only work no more than 10 hrs per day. Now with this new company policy in place, we’re extending our work day by 30 mins. Mind you, I have another 10 hrs work right after. It’s a long work day but I’m off on the other days. We don’t do this second 30 mins break off-the-clock at my other job. Is what my first company policy legal, or is it at the company’s discretion? Also, all the staff have signed a meal to waive second 30 mins break prior to this and they’re all wondering the same legal matter to it.

    • Joshua Petrie on July 31, 2020 at 8:50 am

      Was your original work day something like this:
      In: 8am
      Out: 1pm
      (30 min lunch)
      In: 1:30pm
      Out: 6:30pm

      And now it’s something like this?
      In: 8am
      Out: 12pm
      (30 min meal break)
      In: 12:30pm
      Out: 4:30pm
      (30 min meal break)
      In: 5:00pm
      Out: 7:00pm

      If so, I’d have to say it’s totally within a company’s rights to manage their employees on-the-clock time and set the schedule how they see fit. (I don’t know the details of how that interacts with availability, mind you, I’m just an attentive Internet rando, lol.)

      I don’t personally think it’s necessary for the company to add the second break, especially if everyone has signed the waiver. (Where I work, we often will do 10–12 hour shifts without taking a 2nd meal. “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.” We don’t have anything written in place.)

      I am curious where your rest breaks occur and if you’re getting that you’re owed there.

  3. James on July 29, 2020 at 10:54 pm

    Question; I work in a restaurant in Orange County California and management has been requiring employees to take their meal break the moment we clock in. Is this legal?

    • Joshua Petrie on July 30, 2020 at 9:22 am

      First define meal break: “Unless the employee is relieved of all duty during his or her thirty minute meal period, the meal period shall be considered an “on duty” meal period that is counted as hours worked which must be compensated at the employee’s regular rate of pay.”

      A (first) meal break is owed when “an employee [works] for a work period of more than five hours per day”. I would say if you are scheduled for 8 hours (as an example) your meal break could technically be anywhere within the first 5 hours.

      But the way I see it, if you are clocked in and they are instructing you to eat, then that is “work”. Subsequently, if they are instructing you to clock out and then forcing you to work off-the-clock, that would result in a meal break penalty, so 1 hour of extra pay. The gaming of the timing of the break is of benefit to the employer at the detriment of the employee.

      Also, “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.”

      Let’s say you’re scheduled to work 12pm–8pm. You clock in at 12pm and your manager (or higher) directs you to eat lunch (ok, sure, it’s lunch time, I get it). After your meal, you work until about 5pm when they instruct you to clock out BEFORE 5pm but keep working. This is _not_ ok to me. You clock back in 30 minutes later (or maybe sometimes forget and it’s over 30 minutes, also to the employers benefit) and work until 8 when you clock out for the night (and hopefully don’t do any work off-the-clock for free). I would say they owe you a meal penalty, but in order to get the meal penalty (at least in my experience) you have to go back to the manager (or higher) and tell them what happened and they have to manually add it to your time card (I’d guess it’d be a checkbox in their time system). This is the tough part. And unless you’re ready to go full blown labor board complaint, it may seem insurmountable to get that pay. Plus rocking the boat can feel like your job would be at risk. But if they retaliate:'t%20get%20a%20meal%20period?

      “If your employer discriminates or retaliates against you in any manner whatsoever, for example, he discharges you because you ask about not getting a meal period, object to what you believe to be an illegal practice, or because you file a claim or threaten to file a claim with the Labor Commissioner, you can file a discrimination/retaliation complaint with the Labor Commissioner’s Office. In the alternative, you can file a lawsuit in court against your employer.”

      I hope this helps.

  4. Naomi on July 14, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    Hello. I have a question about my job. First of all I live in California. I get paid $11.50. (Which to my understanding is below minimum wage) I work from 9 am to 5:45 pm with a 45 min unpaid lunch. I do not get any other breaks. Would this situation be a labor complaint?

    • Joshua Petrie on July 17, 2020 at 8:32 am

      If you live in Petaluma or Sonoma they had minimum wages similar to what you described you were getting, but have gone up since the start of 2020. The minimum wage should be posted in a conspicuous place along with other safety documents and work rules, but you can also check the web on sites like this:

      If you are not getting rest breaks, I’d say you should get in contact with someone from this site via the LiveChat or phone to see what you can do, for sure.

      Rest breaks are required by law. Peruse the FAQ on this URL to get more of an idea of how they are supposed to work and compare with your situation:

  5. Zenaida on July 9, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    For a Sales Associate at the UPS store that works 8 hrs a day only gets a 30 min lunch break. No rest breaks. The employee says “that’s enough for me”. Omg… I will start working on that store next week. What should I do? For this employee it’s their second job, but for me this is my 12th+ job and on all of them I’ve had my breaks and my lunch breaks and I just hope that this is not an exemption.

  6. Bruce on July 8, 2020 at 9:37 pm

    I am a full time hourly 40 hour per week employee working on a small 3 man team for a large corporation where there is usually overtime needed to cover thousands of customer issues onsite in heavy traffic all over Southern California. My manager says that the new company policy is that each week must now equal no more than 40 hours, so if we think the day will be going past 8 hours then we must document that in an email and also call the manager. If we end up going over the 8 hours as directed by management they will still pay us the time and a half (over 8 hours) and double time (over 12 hours) that they are required to pay, however, we are no longer allowed to work 8 hours on another day during the same week. For example, if we work 12 hours on one of the days then we must only work 4 hours on one of the other days in that same week to equal 40 hours. Is this legal? About 66% of this job is done on the road and lots of pressure to take as many service calls as possible to show adequate utilization otherwise be laid off, therefore I haven’t taken any 10 minute breaks in 27 years, and lunch usually is eaten while I’m driving because if I stop for lunch there is a good chance I will go into overtime and get written up. Also they refuse to hire any more people for this position and as people retire, they will not back-fill. I don’t appreciate being in a “catch 22” position, but I’m the youngest on the team in my late 50’s and not ready to retire yet, any suggestions?

  7. BB-8 on July 4, 2020 at 9:00 am

    My workplace is threatening to, and is, writing people up for not taking a rest break. Also threatening to terminate employees for not taking lunches or rest breaks. There are times when it is too busy to take a break, and times when there is no relief to cover while an employee is on break. We work medical at a detention facility. So we “MUST” select “yes” on the time clock when it asks us if we took a rest break, when we clock out at the end of shift. Otherwise, written up or worse. Is this legal?

    • Joshua Petrie on July 5, 2020 at 1:20 pm

      My advise, as a random Internet bystander, is if the employer is wanting you to take a rest break, take it or make them tell you not to take it. “Employers […] must authorize and permit a net 10-minute paid rest period for every four hours worked[…]” I would tell my direct supervisor, it’s time for my rest break, but I still have work to do. If they tell me to keep working, they’ve directed my time and the employer should be expected to pay a rest break penalty. If they tell me to stop working, they’ve directed my time and I get a (paid) rest break.

      If the employer—or by extension, their appointed director of employees (supervisor or what have you)—fail to give a proper rest break, it ultimately and immediately hurts the employee. It’s like

      The reason they would be coming down on employees for missing rest periods is because they would then owe that employee an extra hour of pay and they are at risk of getting sued, so they are trying to cover their own… um… selves.

      “If your employer fails to authorize and permit the required rest period(s), you are to be paid one hour of pay at your regular rate of compensation for each workday that the rest period is not authorized or permitted. If your employer fails to pay the additional one-hour’s pay, you may file a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.”

      Employers have the managerial right and responsibility (as I understand it) to direct employees time while on scheduled work hours and if an employee is not complying with the set schedule, work, or break periods, they are subject to the employer’s disciplinary actions. It may be a write-up or a termination depending on the nature and frequency of infractions.

      Selecting ‘yes’ on the time clock, if it were me, would be me doing the wrong thing and I would consider that as putting myself at risk for disciplinary actions against me.

  8. Nicole on July 3, 2020 at 5:11 pm

    I work an 8 hour shift and get 1 lunch break but it’s paid. Now my boss wants me to work an additional 30 minutes to compensate for the lunch he’s paying me. Are there any laws being broken?

    • Joshua Petrie on July 5, 2020 at 1:00 pm

      Is the paid lunch a working lunch—defined* as an ‘on duty’ meal period where “the nature of the work must actually prevent the employee from being relieved of all duty, and there must be a written agreement that an on-the-job paid meal period is agreed to”—? If so, you’ve done the work in the time directed already and you can’t volunteer to do your job (as I understand it; sorry, no citation).

      If they are intending for you to do no work during the meal period, I don’t understand why they would pay you.

      “Q. How does an employer satisfy its obligation to provide a meal period according to the law?

      A. 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.”

      Next, I wonder if you’re getting your proper rest breaks as well… (

      * Quotes are from:

      “If the employer requires the employee to remain at the work site or facility during the meal period, the meal period must be paid. This is true even where the employee is relieved of all work duties during the meal period. Bono Enterprises, In. v. Bradshaw (1995) 32 Cal.App.4th 968.”

  9. kim on July 2, 2020 at 11:22 am

    If I clock out for lunch a few minutes past the 5th hour can my manager legally change the time in our system so that it appears that I took lunch before the 5th? Also am I entitled compensation for going over the 5th hour. I know another one of our offices paid out employees that did but upper management is keeping it hush hush for some reason.

  10. Michael Ivankich on June 19, 2020 at 8:28 am

    So i had worked for a logestics company for a few years and I started to notice that my manager was changing my hours on my time cards I would turn in and he would revise them to reflect less hours/remove meal violations/add breaks. I confronted him about it and he said he didn’t know how it happened and fixed it. Then, it started happening again and more frequently. After 8 months I told the senior manager who ended up firing the manager who changed my time cards. I had saved a lot of my time cards I would turn in and also take pictures of the new time cards my manager would revise. I don’t believe I have been fully paid for all the time I was shorted and I also told the senior manager that my manager told me to skip rest breaks and the senior manager said if I couldn’t prove he told me that then I wouldn’t be able to get reimbursed for that time. The problem was that he had fired my manager already and couldn’t confirm if my manager told me to not take rest breaks. My question is do I need proof about that even though I proved for a year he removed hours off my time cards without my consent? Also, it started in Jan 2017 and I finally told the senior manager in Aug 2017 so its been 2 ¹/² years already.

    Thank you,

    • Joshua Petrie on June 23, 2020 at 10:53 pm

      I’d get in direct contact with a lawyer ASAP. I don’t know all the ins and outs, but I saw this elsewhere on this site:

      “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.” — Eugene Lee

  11. Juan Martinez on June 18, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    Working 13 hours shits here at American wood mark in Anaheim ca but they never tell us about 2nd lunch is not cool.

    • Joshua Petrie on June 18, 2020 at 4:26 pm

      Woah, yeah, that’s not cool! If you started at 6am and took lunch at 11am, then started back at 11:30am and worked no later than 6:30pm, you’d be at 12 hours worked and could agree with your employer to waive your 2nd meal*.

      But at 4:30pm you’re due a 2nd meal if no such waiver agreement is in place, as far as I understand it.

      And if you work past that 12 hour mark w/o a second meal, it feels like it should be a for sure meal penalty where they have to pay you an extra hour.

      *as long as you did not waive your 1st meal break.

    • Justin Ebueng on July 1, 2020 at 5:47 pm

      I work at American Woodmark in riverside. They’re pretty good about telling us when our breaks are and when our second lunch is of we have not waived it.

  12. ANNA on June 10, 2020 at 6:59 pm

    hello i normally work 12 hrs (6 am to 6 pm) as an RN. During our low census recently, i am told to go home at 2:30 pm unexpectedly. I clocked out for lunch at 1200 which is passed the 5 th hour of our labor code. So that is a penalty for my employer, correct? IF i was asked to stay till 4:30 (gives me 10 hrs work) that will not penalize them, right? and they will save more money. thanks pls advise.

  13. David on June 5, 2020 at 4:19 pm

    typically i am stationed in an office work 8am-05:00Pm with a 1 hour lunch, i was sent to an office to handle tasks that are the same as the corporate office i am stationed, and ad a 5 hour drive. long story short i was given a warning for going past my 5th hour on an 8 hour lunch. The VP to the company stated i should have pulled over on the side of the road and taken my lunch is that legal?

  14. Eric on May 31, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    Hi Eugene, I work in customer service (from home) and am scheduled for a 5 hour shift. Sometimes my last customer call will take me past that 5-hour threshold, but not beyond 6 hours (anywhere from 5.05-5.92 total hours). I receive my 10 min. break, but not a meal break. Am I entitled to the Meal Break Penalty for those times where I go beyond the 5 hours?

    • Eugene Lee on May 31, 2020 at 3:12 pm

      I think it would be hard for you to claim it given you were working at home and presumably had no one looking over your shoulder to prevent you from taking your break. Nevertheless, if the employer was somehow preventing or discouraging you from taking your meal break, then you would have a potential claim. Of course, evidence of that prevention or of your complaining about it your superiors would be key.

  15. Tina on May 28, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    So cal you had a law that the break had to start and end before the 5th hour . For a person that stands on there feet 8 hours. If the computer say its at 2 and they say take it later or sooner it makes me look bad.

    • Joshua Petrie on May 29, 2020 at 11:47 pm

      I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying.

  16. Stephanie on May 19, 2020 at 6:51 pm

    Hello Are there any laws regarding the meal break for a 24 hour jail facility? Employees working 8 hours a day with varied shifts to cover the 24 hour period?

    • Joshua Petrie on May 20, 2020 at 4:17 pm

      I don’t have the direct answer to your question, but hopefully someone from this site does. I just know what I’ve learned from this site and the DLSE pages on meal and rest breaks (Google: DLSE meal or rest breaks).

      Did you use the calculator on this site to preview what a 24-hour work day might be like? (9am-9am won’t work, so do something like 9am-8:59am to get 23 hours and 59 minutes)

      The only word of caution I have with the calculator is it assumes you were on the clock the whole shift rather than calculating how many hours you are due if you got proper breaks.

      (i.e. It’ll say “You are entitled to: 5 paid 10-minute uninterrupted rest breaks and 4 unpaid 30-minute uninterrupted meal breaks.”

      But it also says, “Assuming you were on the clock the entire time, you worked a total of: 23 hours and 59 minutes.”

      However, if the meal breaks were properly taken it should say, “Assuming you took your proper breaks, you worked a total of: 21 hours and 59 minutes.” Because if you had 4x 30 minute meal breaks that’s 2 hours less of pay.)

  17. Jamie Lynn on May 5, 2020 at 11:16 am

    I am a nurse and work for a SNF. I am scheduled 7-3:30. What if I am forced to clock out before 12noon but have to continue working off the clock? I never get rest breaks either. Oh! And I am forced to clock out at the end of my shift and forced to complete work for the day even though I’m off the clock. So basically I have worked there for just under 2 years and never get a rest break, forced to clock out and continue working during lunch break and forced to clock out and continue to work after shift over. The payroll guy messes with the time clocks and it is well known. We clock in/out with finger print. Every day that I have worked I am forced to Work through it and they know I am clocked out and still working. Everything is computerized so you will Be able to see I am working and off the clock. I have a case right?

    • Joshua Petrie on May 13, 2020 at 2:03 pm

      I’m not sure if you have been helped by someone from this site (I’m just a random Internet citizen). I would recommend to anyone in this type of situation to reach out to the chat they have on this site. I used chat here with a question I had and she was very helpful. If you prefer not to do online chat, go to the contact page and reach out directly.

  18. Gopal on May 1, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    Hi Eugene,
    I am wondering if I want to take my lunch break in my 6th hours.. and my employer say no, I have to take it in my 5th hours.. is this legal? Or I can take my lunch break when ever I want.
    they are telling me if I don’t take my lunch break in 5th hours, they will write me off

    • Joshua Petrie on May 3, 2020 at 12:45 pm

      I’m just a furloughed worker, bored at home, but here’s what I’ve found:

      > “In California, an employer may not employ an employee for a work period of more than five hours per day without providing the employee with a meal period of not less than thirty minutes…”

      See also their FAQ #5, “…an employer that knows or has reason to know an employee is performing work during the meal period owes compensation to the employee for the time worked…” but I think you could also be subject to disciplinary actions if it’s against company policy to do so.

      Eugene has also stated below, “Remember, employers have the right to set employee schedules, pay and duties. Of course exceptions apply if there is a written contract, union agreement or employer policy that says otherwise.”

  19. CARLOS on April 27, 2020 at 11:37 pm

    On a 4/10 work schedule when should a meal break be provided?

    • Joshua Petrie on April 28, 2020 at 5:31 pm

      In a 10-hour work day you should get 1 meal break (unpaid) and 2 rest breaks (paid). This goes for all 4 of the days.

      “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.”

      (“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.”)

      • Katherine on May 17, 2020 at 8:42 pm

        I work for a AAA independent contractor as a battery driver. I work 10am-10pm. My employers sporadically send me on a 1 hour, unpaid lunch anywhere from 2 hours into my shift (12pm) to 5 hours into my shift (5pm). Ive even been sent into lunch 1.5 hours into my shift (11:30am). We don’t have uninterrupted “rest periods” because we are sort of on call. So for my question, can my employer combine my 2 “30min rest periods”? And if they can, can they force to have me take it 2 hours into my shift? Thanks a lot

        • Joshua Petrie on July 8, 2020 at 9:42 am

          There seem to be a couple issues here…

          AFAIK, the employer directs the employee’s time, so to directly answer your questions, yes to both.

          But here’s why… To set a baseline, a 10am to 10pm schedule is not 12 hours worked, it’s 12 hours minus any meal breaks. So long as the first meal break is not more than 5 hours from the start time (10 am in your example, so, 3pm) I think everyone is in the clear from any wrongdoing. The 2nd meal break would be due by 8:30 pm. However, there’s an exception that is allowed: “…if the total hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and employee only if the first meal period was not waived.”*

          But you had said 5pm, which would be a violation of the first meal break and would result in them owing you a meal penalty hour of pay. And if you further worked past 10 hours without a 2nd meal break, that would be a 2nd meal penalty hour of pay!

          Next, the issue of not having uninterrupted breaks because you’re on call. That’s not good! “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.”*

          I think Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., (2016) 5 Cal.5th 257, 269. would apply here (though I am not a lawyer or representative of this site, just an Internet-rando) inasmuch as I don’t think they can have you be on call without paying you a meal penalty. My rule of thumb is, if you interrupt my lunch, you owe me a meal penalty. Now, if they put you out on an hour lunch but they give you 30 uninterrupted minutes AND you were allowed to come and go as you please THEN they call you like 45 minutes in, I don’t think there is any penalty because the 30 minutes were satisfied.


    • Stephanie on May 12, 2020 at 8:21 pm

      I am scheduled 2:30pm-8pm.

      They scheduled my lunch break to start at 4pm and to return at 5pm, forcing me to take a one hour lunch.

      Technically I am only working 4.5 total hours. Can they force me to take a one hour break with only working a total of 4.5 hour?

  20. Donnie on April 20, 2020 at 1:33 pm

    At my last company, I would take my lunch at the sixth hour. I was warned once to not do this, I continued to do this for 14 months before I was terminated. Technically, it was my choice to go over the 5th hour and the company wasn’t holding me to the 6th hour. Would I still be entitled to compensation because they did not enforce the 5th hour rule and I was still working?

    • Joshua Petrie on April 21, 2020 at 9:54 am

      How many total hours would you work per day? If it’s 6, it’s meant to be an agreement between employer and employee.

      > “…if the total work period per day of the employee is no more than six hours, the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of both the employer and employee.”

      See also their FAQ #5, “…an employer that knows or has reason to know an employee is performing work during the meal period owes compensation to the employee for the time worked…” but I think you could also be subject to disciplinary actions if it’s against company policy to do so.

  21. SS on April 5, 2020 at 12:21 pm

    Can I be required to take an hour-long meal break because that’s how my manager has scheduled the work flow?

    • Eugene Lee on April 13, 2020 at 2:22 pm

      Yes, that is ok so long as you are permitted to start the lunch before the end of the fifth hour of your shift, the break is uninterrupted and duty-free, you are allowed to leave the worksite, etc. Remember, employers have the right to set employee schedules, pay and duties. Of course exceptions apply if there is a written contract, union agreement or employer policy that says otherwise.

  22. Will on April 1, 2020 at 7:05 pm

    If my shift starts at 7AM, I take a 1 hour lunch break and my shift ends at 3:30 how many hours should I be paid for?

    • Joshua Petrie on April 6, 2020 at 9:36 am

      Here’s the formula: End time – Start time – lunch time

      Or: Work day – lunch

      (These should both be equal)

      7 to 3:30 is 8.5 hours minus 1 hour lunch = 7.5 hours of pay

      • Eugene Lee on April 13, 2020 at 2:23 pm

        Joshua Petrie is 100% correct. HOWEVER, some employers actually decide to pay for lunch breaks, even though the law does not otherwise require it. If that is the case, then you would be entitled to 8.5 hours of pay. Also, if you signed an onduty meal consent, then you can be required to keep working through your lunch, but you must then also be paid for that lunch as well.

  23. Stephanie on March 19, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    Need a little clarification. I work 8am to 5pm with an hour lunch at 1pm on Monday’s and Thursdays and 12pm Tuesdays and Thursdays. Rarely get to take a 10 minute break and majority of the year I have worked for this dental office I have not taken my 10 minute break. So how many violations am I looking at? What exactly is the dentist in violation of? I am an hourly wage worker.

    • Abbie on March 28, 2020 at 11:06 pm

      My boss is having me work 12 hour days and told me i have to take 2 full hour lunches but i asked if i could take one and she told me no because of the law… but this website is saying otherwise how should i approach my boss?

      • Joshua Petrie on March 29, 2020 at 11:11 pm

        Your first meal is due by the end of your 5th hour, before the 6th hour. So, for example, if you clocked in at 6am your meal is due by 11am. You’re taking an hour lunch, so you’d come back by 12.

        Your second meal is due by before the end of your 10th hour worked. So, in the 6–11am, back at 12 example, your next meal is due by 5pm. But if you did not waive your first meal, you can waive this meal so long as you don’t work past 7pm, as I read it.

        According to this website, “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.”

        Here is the Department of Labor Standards’ FAQ on meal breaks and waivers:

        Perhaps you can bring this government website to your boss and ask how to secure the meal waiver.

        I hope this helps!

  24. Richard on March 16, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    Hi, my husband worked 8 hour shifts as a night auditor at a hotel. He was handed a lunch waiver form that he was told to sign in order to accept employment. My husband should have been offered a lunch break as he works more than the six required for the waiver. He was never talked to about his options and he often complained about the lack of employees. He worked alone for his whole shift and did not take a lunch during his shift. He was paid for his time there but was working 8 hours with no lunch. He signed a waiver but was not aware that he could decline the waiver. He always informed his boss that he was not taking his lunches but his employer said nothing.

    • Brian W on March 18, 2020 at 2:04 pm

      If he is non-exempt (not a salaried supervisor) he is entitled to a meal period break. Employer must let him leave the premise, too, since he is not on the clock.Waivers do not suffice. It’s his right. Now the employer is entitled to pay him a meal period violation pay at his normal rate. The rate increases as more violations occur. I am an employer, not a lawyer, and while I believe this information to be true based on my understanding of CA labor law, he should double check this website or consult an attorney for direction if he cannot verify this information.

    • Joshua Petrie on March 29, 2020 at 11:15 pm

      Sounds like he is owed an “on duty” meal period per night shift for up to the previous 3 years of employment. I’d try to get in contact with someone from this site to see if you want to pursue a labor complaint.

      “An ‘on duty’ meal period shall be permitted only when the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all duty and when by written agreement between the employer and employee an on-the-job paid meal period is agreed to. The written agreement must state that the employee may, in writing, revoke the agreement at any time. IWC Orders 1 -15, Section 11, Order 16, Section 10. […] Some examples of jobs that fit this category are a sole worker in a coffee kiosk, a sole worker in an all-night convenience store, and a security guard stationed alone at a remote site.”

  25. Luis L on March 16, 2020 at 10:17 am

    My mother works part-time at a daycare center. When there are only a few kids, her employer makes her take an unpaid “lunch” break 1.5-2 hours into her shift. Today she was forced to take a 1 hour break after only working one hour. Depending on whether kids show up or not, she either works the remainder of the shift (total 4-8 hours) or she is sent home. Is this legal?

    • Joshua Petrie on March 29, 2020 at 11:19 pm

      Look in to “reporting pay” with the DLSE:

      Basically, the least an employer can pay an employee for “reporting” to work (there’s various definitions at the URL above) is two hours.

      “Each workday an employee is required to report to work, but is […] furnished with less than half of [their] usual or scheduled day’s work, [they] must be paid […] in no event for less than two hours nor more than four hours, at his or her regular rate of pay.”

  26. H. Valencia on March 12, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    I work in a CA store Every day I work I’m scheduled from 3:30pm- 9:30 or 9:45pm sometimes we don’t even leave the store until 10:00. I’m only given 1 ten minute break and a 30 minute unpaid lunch. There isn’t always another associate later in the day to cover breaks so I am sent to my 30 minute break an hour or two after my shift started and then given my one ten minute break way later in my shift. They do this to avoid being penalized for taking an in store paid 30 minute break. Is this legal?

    • Joshua Petrie on March 15, 2020 at 7:32 pm

      I’m not sure what you mean by “in store paid 30 minute break,” but the rest of it sounds right. When you work 5–6 hours, you are due (but can agree to waive) a 30 minute unpaid break. As I understand it, there should be no meal penalty, so long as your work does not exceed 6 hours.

  27. Roy on March 11, 2020 at 9:53 am

    Hello, I work at a traveling bus company, since I started I have never had any 10 mins paid breaks, also the afternoon shift gets in at 12pm and are scheduled to go to lunch at 1pm which is 1 hr into our work day. Leaving us with 8 hours ahead of us with no breaks. I’ve worked with the company for about 8 years, they are based out of Texas. The other thing this past June 2019, the company was purchased by someone else, how would this work in regards of 3 years back?
    Thank you

  28. Catherine on March 10, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    My husband and I both worked for a golf course maintenance company and we were required to combine our meal and rest breaks into one hour. Is this legal?

    • Eugene Lee on March 10, 2020 at 3:50 pm


      • Catherine on March 10, 2020 at 4:08 pm

        How can we proceed?

        • Eugene Lee on March 13, 2020 at 9:39 pm

          Hi Catherine, You can give us a call at 213-992-3299 and we can get you started.

  29. Angelo lozano on March 8, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Hi I work in construction and I never knew about meal and break laws and I been working in construction over 1p yrs and never have I ever received a 2nd lunch meal break after 10 hrs can I go about this is it worth to sue?cause noone there in the company have ever gotten our 2nd meal break

    • Eugene Lee on March 8, 2020 at 9:44 am

      You need to file a wage claim. You can give us a call at 213-992-3299 M-F 9 am to 5 pm. Someone can assist you.

  30. Gage Roark on March 5, 2020 at 11:42 am

    I work for a Dance Studio as a dance instructor. Does the break time apply for those kind of employees? I know that area can be a little iffy

    • Eugene Lee on March 8, 2020 at 9:48 am

      If you are a dance instructor at a dance studio, you are most likely an employee under the current ABC test (AB5). As such, you are entitled to meal and rest breaks according to California labor laws.

  31. Isabel Torres on March 4, 2020 at 4:14 pm

    Is it legal for my employer to deduct my break time from my overtime? Exp. I worked 10 hrs on a day but when I got paid they paid me for 1.72 as overtime when I question my payroll dept. they said I didn’t get pay for the 2 hrs due to my breaks. Since I took my break in the morning and in the afternoon those 20 min are not consider “working hours” is this correct?

    • Eugene Lee on March 8, 2020 at 9:50 am

      Ten minute rest breaks must be paid and taken on the clock. It sounds like your employer is illegally deducting your two 10-minute rest breaks.

  32. Stephen Holguín on March 4, 2020 at 2:24 pm

    I work for “the” coffee company on every corner as an opener. My shifts begin at 5am and end at 1pm. The duty roster for the day shows “scheduled” lunches for each staff for the day, but the managers make us take them early so we are back on the floor by 7am for “peak” business. Is it legal for them to have me take my lunches 1 to 2 hours into my shift and then work 6-7 hours after my lunch break?

  33. Rose F. on March 1, 2020 at 12:08 am

    I work at a chain salon and get paid hourly. I was denied a mealtime break because I was only scheduled to work a 6 hour shift and was only allowed a 10 min ‘break’. I want to know if I have any grounds to file a complaint. Or is this one of those cases where it’s allowed? I did not sign any waiver, as I have for previous employers.

    • Joshua Petrie on March 1, 2020 at 6:06 pm

      The DLSE* says it needs to be “mutual consent of both the employer and employee”.

      Sounds like it wasn’t mutual, so I’d say yes.


      • Jeanie Lisbon on March 6, 2020 at 3:23 pm

        Say an non exempt employee with a regular 8am – 5pm shift, and the employee waives their 1 hour meal break and the employer agrees, would this mean the employee worked 9 hours. If so, does the employer need to pay the employee for 9 hours or 8 hours?

        • Eugene Lee on March 8, 2020 at 9:46 am

          By law, meal breaks are unpaid (unless the employer decides to make it paid). Since meal breaks are unpaid and taken off the clock, that means the employee worked 8 hours, not 9 hours.

        • Joshua Petrie on March 14, 2020 at 9:27 am

          I don’t see anywhere that allows a meal break to be waived (outside of a 6 hour shift). By 1 pm (the 5th hour) you are due a meal break, if it’s not taken you are owed a meal penalty (1 extra hour of pay). Also, if you didn’t break for a meal, then you are still on the clock, so you should expect 9 hours of pay+1 “hour” meal penalty pay.

  34. Isreal Gonzales on February 29, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    My wife works fir a company for the last 20 years plus and she always take her lunch past the fifth hour. She didn’t know if the law – is something she should consider to take company to court and what would be the possible return?

    • Joshua Petrie on March 1, 2020 at 6:09 pm

      I don’t know what you stand to get returned, but I saw Eugene say that you can only sue for the previous 3 (or maybe 4) years elsewhere in this comment section:

      “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.” — Eugene Lee

  35. Jeanette on February 28, 2020 at 12:41 pm

    My employer requires me to take a 30min unpaid mealbbreak befor the end of my 5th hour sometimes im only scheduled ro woek 5.5 hours up to 8.5 hours. I woek in a veey busy bowling alley , bar and kitchen. We are always short staffed and rarely get to start our 30 min break on time. I prefer to work thru my break. If I choose to waive my 30min break, is there a waiver that I can sign and keep it on file so it covers me and my employer from that poi t on ? My point is, if its one of those days I cant break on time because Im so busy cooking or bar tending etc., I will be covered and so will my employer.

    • Joshua Petrie on February 28, 2020 at 2:38 pm

      If you are scheduled for 6 hours or less you can waive your meal break. The DLSE* says it needs to be “mutual consent of both the employer and employee”, but I don’t think you need to sign anything necessarily, I could be wrong.

      If you are working past 5 hours and you’re scheduled for more than 6 hours, your employer would owe you a meal break penalty (basically an extra hour of pay) in that case.


  36. Deborah on February 27, 2020 at 9:39 pm

    Hi I work two jobs at a school 4 days a week I work from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm and i don’t start my second job until 2:30 but once a week I work My first job 10:00 to 1:30 then I have to start the second job at 1:30 to 6:00 so on this day I work straight thru from 10:00 am to 6:00pm. Now for 4 years I have never taken a break or a lunch but this year they are saying it’s the law you have to take a unpaid 30 min lunch ! I fill out 2 time sheets because I have 2 different jobs now do I have to take a lunch break on the day that I work10 am to 6 pm?

  37. Dave on February 27, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    Can an employer deny meal breaks and elect to pay the penalty, or must the employee agree to this?

  38. sUSAN on February 26, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    I work 8 to 5; 1 hr lunch break. WHEN DO WE HAVE THE 2 BREAKS?
    Please respond today. Thank you

    • Eugene Lee on February 26, 2020 at 4:14 pm

      Lunch should start before 1 pm. One break should be before lunch and one break should be after lunch. Each break is supposed to be roughly in the middle of the work period. So roughly around 10:30 am and 3:30 pm.

  39. Daph Eliza on February 12, 2020 at 10:21 pm

    I just got a new job and work 12 to 6. I was just told I had to go on a lunch. But for 2 weeks I have not recieved a 10. Do I just get a 30 minute lunch then ? And no 10?

  40. Carlos on February 12, 2020 at 9:23 pm

    My work day starts at 5 AM and I was told to take my first 10 min break 17 minutes into my shift is that legal? Also I called in sick once and I was told to not come in to work for the next 3 days is that legal?

    • Leister on February 19, 2020 at 1:13 am

      Yo do construction don’t you?

    • Lisa on February 20, 2020 at 9:21 pm

      I work 8 hrs a day and my employer wants us to work a half hr over so they dont have to pay us lunch is that legal?

  41. Erick Sanchez on February 12, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    Hi, I work 6 hour shifts . I’m forced to take a 1 hour lunch break. I only need a 30 min lunch break but my boss says it’s slow so we’re written up if we take a 30 min lunch break.

  42. Suman on February 10, 2020 at 5:05 pm


    • Joshua Petrie on February 11, 2020 at 12:36 pm

      My understanding: No, because you can work up 6 hours (after any 30 minute break) if that finishes your shift (and you didn’t already waive a meal break).

      “A second meal period of not less than thirty minutes is required if an employee works more than ten hours per day, except that if the total hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and employee only if the first meal period was not waived.”

      “…a subsequent meal period must be called not later than six hours after the termination of the preceding meal period.” —

    • Shane on February 27, 2020 at 3:51 pm

      You call it a “right” and say we are “entitled” to a 30 minute meal break. If that’s the case, why can’t we waive that right? By forcing my employer to do this you are making my work day longer and taking money out of my pocket.

      • Eugene Lee on February 27, 2020 at 3:55 pm

        You can waive your meal break, so long as your employer agrees to it. As long as it’s voluntary by you.

  43. Eddie on February 8, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    My employer doesnt let me know my estimated finish time. I am a route delivery driver. Thanks. any info helps.

  44. Nevin C on February 5, 2020 at 11:28 am

    Can my employer force me to take an early lunch break after only being on shift for 3 hours?

  45. Erika solarte on February 3, 2020 at 3:08 am

    Hi i am waiting for someone to get a hold of my i have a ticket number fir my filed complaint

  46. Christina Delgado on January 31, 2020 at 6:38 pm

    I work graveyard shifts at a hotel. I work from 11pm till 7 am. I cannot leave the hotel to have a lunch break there would be nobody at the front desk so I would be interupted as it’s just me at the hotel at night. Can they force me to take a break even tho I can’t leave my station.

  47. Tammie Rodriguez on January 23, 2020 at 6:18 pm

    Im scheduled to work my shift in wich it is from 10 a.m to 7p.m .I was given my lunch after 3 hrs of being on my shirt .Is there any laws for the amount of time i should b working before having to go to lunch

  48. JJ on January 14, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    I work at a county owned hospital (allied health, non-exempt) and management has changed our shift times from 7:30am-4pm and 11:30am-8pm to 7am-3:30pm and 1pm-9:30pm. They are requiring that we stay on site at the hospital during our meal break (but can leave the department). I have two issues with this new schedule. First, the AM employee does not take their meal break until 1pm, which is after the 5 hour rule, correct? Secondly, the PM employee is forced to stay on site. My understanding of the law is that this does not count has a meal break and we should be paid 1 extra hour accordingly. Sometimes one staff member works the entire 7:30am-8pm and we are not given any extra pay for missing breaks or meal periods, only the 1.5x for the hours worked over 8 hours. We are also covered by a large union who doesn’t find anything wrong with these hours and meal time assignments. Do the same state laws not apply if you are covered by a collective bargaining agreement?

  49. Bentley on January 12, 2020 at 10:28 am

    My employer is saying I have to work three and one-half (3 1/2) hours without using the restroom.

    • Joshua Petrie on January 16, 2020 at 1:54 pm

      They must be confusing a rest break with a “bio” break. DLSE policy simply prohibits an employer from requiring that employees count any separate use of toilet facilities as a rest period. Read more:

    • Renee on April 6, 2020 at 9:30 pm

      I dont think that’s legal. You cant be told WHEN to use the bathroom. BUT if you
      Constantly use it I could see that as a problem.

  50. Diego on January 9, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Hey there,

    I work as a waiter at a mom & pop diner. Never in the five years that I have been working there have we, the employees, ever taken a rest or lunch break. When employees are hired there, there are no policies, no regulations or rules to look over via handbook or simply posted throughout the restaurant like other locations do.

    Now that I am leaving, I would like to get reimbursed for all the time I never took a break. I don’t have any scheduling records, but do have all my paystubs from the time I started working there.

    Do you think I may have a solid case for a break violation?

    Thank you.

    • James L. on January 29, 2020 at 9:40 am

      Diego, it is a mom and pop store like you said, not a big corporation. Be grateful that they provided you with a job for 5 years and move on.

      If you really had an issue with it,
      you should have brought it up 5 years ago. It is a bad karma for you to leave your previous boss like that especially if they are mom and pop store. Good luck with your future and move on to the better things in life.

      • Susan on February 26, 2020 at 4:19 pm

        I disagree BUT he should have said something a long time ago.

    • Danny on May 4, 2020 at 1:57 pm

      I work from 11-7 and usually take a lunch by 12-1 per the cafeteria schedule. My boss wants me to take lunch at 3. The cafeteria is closed by then. Is that legal? I thought we jus had to take lunch by our 5th hour not at a set time.

Leave a Comment