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. Shannon on March 8, 2021 at 8:10 am

    I have an employee who works 8AM to 5PM and he wants to take his lunch break at 10:15-10:30. Is that permissible? Thank you!

    • Joshua Petrie on March 12, 2021 at 8:55 am

      8a–5p is 9 hours. The lunch break must be at least 30 minutes. It can start no later than 1p, but as long as the pattern clock in-rest break-meal break-rest break-clock out is followed, I think it’s fine if they want to start their lunch at 10:15 or 10:30? (I’m not a lawyer.)

      One thing I’m not clear on is if a meal break is due after each 5 hour block or only due by the end of a total duration of multiples of 5 hours. If, for example, they started at 8, worked a 12 hour day and took the 1st meal at 11, is the 2nd meal due by (11a+5hr=) 4:30 or (8am+10hr+30m=) 6:30?

  2. david cooper on March 3, 2021 at 12:10 am

    I have moved on not the office side of things now but i was working in the field has a caregiver often times 12 hour shifts and we never took breaks how is this legal

  3. A cardiac nurse on March 1, 2021 at 5:22 pm

    I work in a busy cardiac catheterization lab. I’m a registered nurse. I work 12 hour shifts three days a week. #1: the nurses in the lab never are given a morning break or afternoon break #2: when we come in for an emergency catheterization procedure(s), we could be working for hours without a break at all. Are the rules different for procedural areas? I work in California.

  4. Niki on February 18, 2021 at 4:54 pm

    Hi, I work at a very small business as the manager. We’re talking a team of 5 or 6 employees, including myself. I am pretty well versed with basic ca labor laws but I read something above that I am curious to know more about. That is as an employee “You can also agree with your boss to an on-duty meal break which counts as time worked and is paid.” Does that only count for 6 hr shifts?

    Since we are such a small business we typically do not have more than one person on duty and working at a time. (Covid has not helped in that business is now VERY poor and we cannot afford to staff more employees at the same time.) So my question is this: If I have an employee who wants to work an 8 hour shift but we don’t have the means to relieve them for a 30 minute break w/o scheduling someone else to come in, can we offer the employee a paid lunch break to occur during their 8 hour shift so they can still take a lunch break but not have to clock out for it?

    I feel like I need to clarify that by no means do we expect any of our employees to work over 4 hours without a break or to not allow a lunch break. We absolutely want them to take breaks when they need. It is just that this type of work (small retail business) doesn’t require constant on your feet working. In fact, most of our employees spend at least an hour “breaking” during their 4-5 hours shifts because we are just not busy and they don’t really take it upon themselves to stay busy.

    So considering all of that: if I have an employee who wants to work 8 hrs and is willing to take on-the-clock lunch breaks instead of off-the-clock to get 8 hr shifts, could we do that and would it be legal?

    • Joshua Petrie on March 4, 2021 at 7:08 am

      “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.”
      “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.”

      Are they able to leave for 30 minutes? If not: “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.”

      I think that if the meal period is not satisfied you would be paying for the time worked (8) and the meal penalty (+1 hour, not counting towards OT), but I’m not a lawyer or anything. Here’s further reading, where I quoted these things from:

      Also, are they getting their proper rest breaks? (If not, another +1 hours penalty pay, not counting towards OT.) With a rest break the employer must be allowed to leave. the break timing starts when they arrive at the rest break area, rest breaks are separate from toilet facilities breaks (also paid) and they cannot be made “to remain at the ready, tethered by time and policy to particular locations or communications devices” as “the requirement [is] to relieve employees of all work duties and employer control during 10-minute rest periods”

      “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. Employers are required to provide suitable resting facilities that shall be available for employees during working hours in an area separate from the toilet rooms.”

      • J on March 11, 2021 at 9:26 am

        I work for a security company for a year I have never being provided a rest break only my meal break. Now they are saying since I signed the meal waver is for the rest breaks as well. I work 10hr daily. To my understanding I can wave my lunch if I work less than 6hr but the rest breaks were not going to be affected in any way. I was also removed from my place to another after i report and issue. Am i correct or I’m wrong regarding meal waver? Can It be considered retaliation what it was done to me?

        • Joshua Petrie on March 12, 2021 at 8:56 am

          I would seek direct contact with a lawyer if you want to purse this matter!

  5. Amanda on February 10, 2021 at 10:03 am

    HI, I’m a nurse and work at a nursing and rehab. When I was working night shift i wouldn’t clock in or out for lunch breaks because there was no one to relieve me and couldn’t leave the floor. but when I look at my time sheet it has me clocked in and out. but they still paid me for my lunches.. should they even clock me in and out?

    • Joshua Petrie on February 11, 2021 at 6:17 am

      It sounds like you’re saying you get paid correctly, but noticed a discrepancy on your timesheet.

      If it were me, the pay is the bigger issue and I wouldn’t mess with it.

      But you may still want to contact someone on this site. There’s a LiveChat feature in the lower right or the contact page.

  6. mimi on February 8, 2021 at 4:19 pm

    If I work 7 AM to 1130PM, am I required to take my 3rd meal break? Can I waive it?

    • Joshua Petrie on February 10, 2021 at 10:08 am

      Eugene said in 2014, “If you work over 10 hours, you are entitled to two 30 min meal breaks and three 10 min rest breaks. After 12 hours, you’re entitled to double overtime, but not more breaks. After 14 hours, you should receive a fourth 10 min rest break. After 15 hours, you should get a third meal period.”

      The calculator at the top of this page also gives the following with your given hours: “You must be allowed to begin your third meal break before 10:00 PM, otherwise it is a late lunch violation.

      You and your employee can agree to waive a maximum of 1 meal break per day. You can waive your first meal break only if you are not on the clock for more than 6 hours. You can waive your second meal break only if you are not on the clock for more than 12 hours.”

      I found in some Googling that only 1 meal can be waived per day.

  7. K Miller on February 2, 2021 at 4:14 pm


    If we have an employee that drives to a client’s office 2 day a week and waives her right to take her lunch break at the 5th hour, she gets a lunch break but chooses to work a little later since she is at a client’s office, is it ok to do that? I have it in writing each time she goes over her 5th hour that she was at a clients and waives her lunch time til a time she can actually leave and eat.

    Again, she IS getting her lunch time but it’s just after the 5th hour.

    • Joshua Petrie on February 5, 2021 at 9:26 pm

      As long as they’re under 6 hours, no meal penalty would be due. If it’s over 6 hours, a meal penalty would be due because working more than 6 hours in a day, you need to have your meal by the end of the 5th hour. (I’m not a lawyer, just an Internet rando who frequents here to stay sharp on these questions and help people where I’m able.)

      “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, except that 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.

  8. K Jaime on January 31, 2021 at 4:44 pm

    My boss is stating that if we work a 8 hour shift and we take an hour lunch then we are not entitled to any 10 minute breaks because we are taking a long lunch. So they law would be that we would have to take a minimum of 30 minute lunch and then we can have the 2 10 minute paid breaks?

    • Mackey Sasser on February 2, 2021 at 8:56 pm

      From what I read yes that sounds correct.

    • Joshua Petrie on February 5, 2021 at 9:22 pm

      Your boss is incorrect and you may have a case. (The statute of limitations is 3 years according to Eugene elsewhere on these comments.)

      “The rest period is based on the total hours worked daily and must be at the minimum rate of a net ten consecutive minutes for each four hour work period, or major fraction thereof. The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) considers anything more than two hours to be a “major fraction” of four.” A rest period is not required for employees whose total daily work time is less than three and one-half hours. ”

  9. Andrew on January 23, 2021 at 7:04 pm

    I my place of work, requires that I can not work past my 5th hour for working, and they give 3 warning. My my 3rd strike. Can I get fired. And if so can I sue?

    • Joshua Petrie on January 24, 2021 at 2:19 pm

      California is an “at will” state, meaning you or your employer can terminate the working relationship at any time for (almost) any reason (save for discrimination).

      (I’m not a lawyer, by the way.)

      If you don’t follow your employer’s rules, they can and likely will release you. However, if they are preventing you from taking a meal break, that is on them and you may have a case.

      “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.”

      Good luck, Andrew!

  10. Amy on January 17, 2021 at 2:20 pm

    When working an on call shift, apart from one’s regular work schedule, are you required to clock out for a lunch break?

    • Joshua Petrie on January 18, 2021 at 8:41 am

      The function of clocking in or out is to determine if you are on-the-clock (working) or off-the-clock (not working). If you are working, you must be paid for it. If you work up to five hours the expectation is a meal break would occur before the beginning of the fifth hour. If it does not, and work continues in to the 5th hour, a meal penalty is added to your pay. A “working lunch” does not constitute a meal break and should still be paid the same because you’re still on the clock.

      The only time you don’t need to clock out for a meal is if your total hours worked in a single day do not exceed 6. Then and only if the meal period is waived by mutual consent of both the employer and employee will you not clock out for a lunch break. You’d work a straight 6 hour shift.

      This 5 hour portion of a day’s shift or a 6 hour total day’s shift also has an expected paid 10-minute uninterrupted rest break. If your employer did not allow you the rest break on time, you would be entitled to 1 hour of wages for each day there was a rest break violation.

  11. Jocelyne Romero on January 3, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    I work as a cashier and due to being short staffed I was unable to take my lunch before the fifth hour. I took it 20 minutes after and clocked out and back in after my lunch. But before I approved my work hours for the end the week i noticed that my punched times had been changed by the manager. This happens often with other employees as well. I’m simply wondering if this allowed?

    • Joshua Petrie on January 3, 2021 at 8:29 pm

      No, but it’s what managers might do to keep themselves out of trouble with the company. (Benefit of the doubt they don’t know any better and are just trying to match the scheduled hours with what you’re paid, no matter what you work… but that is why there are laws to protect us! In this case, the company did not train them to follow the law, which is a problem.)

      • Lulu on March 22, 2021 at 8:03 pm

        Is it legal to be forced to take a 30 min break 2 hours into a shift? Shouldn’t break be every 4 hours? I work 12 hour shift.

        • Joshua Petrie on March 26, 2021 at 1:22 pm

          A 12 hour shift is presumably (for example) 6am to 6pm, and is at least 1 hour shy of 12 hours of pay (because two 30 minute meal periods are due after 5 and 10 hours of work).

          I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an early meal break as long as there’s no stretch of time that’s 5 hours long that isn’t immediately followed by a meal break.

          So, for example:

          In: 6am
          (10 minute paid rest break in between)
          Out: 8am
          (Off the clock meal break, 2 hours of pay so far)
          In: 8:30am
          (10 minute paid rest break in between)
          Out: 1:30pm
          (Off the clock 2nd meal break, 7 hours of pay so far)
          In: 2pm
          (10 minute paid rest break in between)
          Out: 6pm
          Total hours worked: 11
          (Duration of workday: 12 hours)

          The 1st meal is due before the start of 11am and the 2nd meal is due before the start of 4:30 (I THINK; either that or 4pm, I’m not 100% sure).

  12. Maria on January 2, 2021 at 6:45 pm

    I work 8 hours. Can my manager send me to take my lunch 10 or 30 minutes right after i started my shift?

    • Joshua Petrie on January 2, 2021 at 8:38 pm

      I’m just an Internet rando, but here’s where I’m currently at on this. The employer controls your schedule, if they give you an early and/or long break, that doesn’t necessarily satisfy other needed breaks.

      If you work an 8 hour day, with a 30 minute break 30 minutes in, your day should look like this:

      In: 8am (for example)
      Out: 8:30am
      In: 9am
      Rest break: 11am
      Out: 1pm (or no later than 2pm)
      In: 1:30pm
      Out: 5pm

      This is a 9 hour day, but only 8 hours on the clock. They can’t control what you do or where you go for the off-the-clock breaks, and there are other stipulations to see if a rest or meal break passes the litmus test.

      Read more about rest breaks here:

      And meal breaks here:

  13. Mando on December 26, 2020 at 4:02 am

    I work full time 40hrs a week. But sometimes I’m not able to take my lunch by the 5th hr. But I don’t get an hr of extra pay. My check reflects 39 hrs of regular pay and 1hr of ca meal premium at regular pay. Can my employer do this??

    • Joshua Petrie on December 27, 2020 at 8:31 am

      It sounds like your employer misunderstands the meal penalty. The penalty is to them because it’s their responsibility to ensure you take a lunch. When you’re on the clock, they have to pay you and if you go over 5 hours that triggers the penalty. Where they can get confused is they think it replaces your on-the-clock pay; it doesn’t.

      If you work 40 hours a week, but one day you hit MP, you should be getting 41 hours of pay. (The MP does not count towards overtime hour calculations.)

      Further reading:

  14. Francisco Ponce on December 11, 2020 at 8:02 pm

    I worked for Pedros Tacos for almost 29 years. I Never took a lunch break for 24 years, the 30 minutes break or 10 minutes break. My job title was a manager. 5 years ago they changed the rules and I was required to clock in and clock out. All though we didn’t take the break or lunch, we were forced to record the breaks and lunch on our time card and also forced to sing a paper where it said that I have to take a break because it was mandatory. On June 12- 2020 I got sick with stress, anxiety, and they terminated for no reason. Im still unemployed because the stress and anxiety that I have. Can some one help?

    • Joshua Petrie on December 12, 2020 at 11:48 am

      Use the contact page of this website, or the chat feature on each page, to reach out to someone with the law firm. The statute of limitations on labor stuff is apparently 3 years (I’m not a lawyer, FYI) and I’d ask about emotional distress while you’re at it. There’s likely other things I don’t know that a real lawyer can help you with, so I really encourage you to take it to that level to find out.

  15. Linda on December 10, 2020 at 2:10 pm

    I work 2:30am -1:00pm

    I clock out and take a 30 mins unpaid lunch

    Will that be considered me working 10hrs?
    Or 10hrs and 30 mins?

    I am PHYSICALLY at work 10hrs and 30 mins
    But I clock out for lunch

    • Joshua Petrie on December 10, 2020 at 10:40 pm

      It’s 10 hours of pay (it might be called a 10.5 hour shift, like if you put those start and end times on the calculator on this webpage—it doesn’t automatically take your lunch out).

      Also, if you aren’t allowed to leave during your 30 minute meal period, “you are being denied your time for your own purposes and in effect remain under the employer’s control and thus, the meal period must be paid.” (They give you an extra hour of pay, aka a “meal penalty”.) FAQ #7

      In that case, you’d be getting 11 hours of pay.

      Also, unless there’s a waiver, your meal break has to start before 7:30 am, with a rest break about halfway in between that and your start time. Another rest break should be in between your meal break and the end of your shift. Each missed rest break is another hour of pay they owe you. FAQ #2

  16. edward martinez on December 3, 2020 at 8:28 am

    Can my employer add a break to my shift if I didn’t take one.

    • Joshua Petrie on December 10, 2020 at 10:34 pm

      Yep, but I don’t think it’s legal.

  17. Nina on December 2, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    I got a form from our hr connection – CA lunch break waiver form. There are two parts: first section is for a one time deal and second section is for as long as employee wants to do it. This you keep on file. No more problems with them waiving meals when working 5.5 or 6 hours :)

    Couldn’t put the link because it’s saved to my pc but here is what I have:

    Employee Name (Last, First, & Middle) Employee ID Number Date

    Title Supervisor Department

    In accordance with California’s Industrial Welfare Commission order No. 4-2001, section 11, I am requesting a waiver of my right to an unpaid 30-minute meal break on a day or days when my work will be completed in six hours or less. I also understand that my supervisor must agree to this waiver by signing below.

    Please check one of the following
    ☐ This form is to waive my meal period for the workday(s) listed below:
    Date(s) Beginning Time End Time

    ☐ This form is to waive my right to a 30-minute unpaid meal break on all days when my work will be completed in six hours or less from the day this form is complete until I revoke this waiver in writing filling out and signing the revocation section of this form.

    Employee Signature: __________________________________________________________________

    Name (print): __________________________________________________ Date: _________________

    I hereby revoke this waiver.

    Employee Signature: __________________________________________________________________

    Name (print): _________________________________________________ Date: __________________
    Please check one of the following
    ☐ Your meal break waiver request has been received and approved.
    ☐ Your meal break waiver request has been denied.

    Supervisor Signature: __________________________________________________________________

    Name (print): __________________________________________________ Date: _________________

    ☐ Copy Employee File ☐ Copy to Payroll ☐ Copy

  18. Kristin Collins on December 2, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Just a question. If a company has multi-state locations and a non-exempt employee works in Maine normally, and then works for 3 days in CA. Are they subject to the meal penalty pay?

    • Joshua Petrie on December 2, 2020 at 8:45 pm

      A company I work for is not based in CA but is subject to CA laws since I work here… but I don’t know if it’s tied to where I live. Like would CA laws follow me if I worked in another state? And vis versa, do CA laws apply when someone from out of state works here? Good question!

      • H Lewis on February 26, 2021 at 10:08 pm

        I’m not an attorney, but based on my experience, the labor laws where you live would most likely apply to you. This is how my employer handles it anyway.

        My employer is in CA and i live in CA, so they pay me OT based on CA law. However, employees at offices/sites in other states, and remote employees not based in CA do not get the benefit of CA OT laws like I and other CA employees do.

        However, I’ll say living in CA is so expensive, that the extra I make in double OT is not worth living in CA.

  19. David on November 25, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    confusion on working time vs. scheduled time. If an employee is scheduled from 12:00 to 6:00. They should receive 1 rest and 1 meal break. If this employee actually punches out at 6:15, and they received BOTH breaks, as I understand it, actual working time is 5:45, so they would not be required to have a second rest break. Is this correct?

    • Joshua Petrie on November 26, 2020 at 9:40 pm

      12–6 is either two rest breaks (paid 6 hours of work) or one rest break and one meal break (paid 5.5 hours of work).

      12–6:15 must be one rest break and one meal break (paid 5.75 hours of work).

      “Anything more than two hours” in duration needs a 10 minute rest break. 12–2, take a 10, 2:10–4:10, take a 30 min. meal, 4:40–6:15 is less than 2 hours, so no rest break is needed.

      The second break comes in at 6 total hours worked, I believe. So in this example it would come if work exceeded 6:30. Let’s say 12–6:45 or later. Picking up at 4:40 from above, at 6:40, take a 10, then start another block of time.

      Rest breaks are intended to be in the middle of each 4 hour work period, assuming you work 8 hours in a day, but 2 hours triggers the need for a rest break, so there’s some wiggle room, if that makes sense.

      Read more:

  20. David on November 12, 2020 at 3:20 pm

    I work from 4-1030pm. And I don’t take a lunch break because it’s not given to me can I sue .

    • Joshua Petrie on November 13, 2020 at 4:56 pm

      Yeah, reach out via the contact page. The statute of limitations is 3 years, I believe.

  21. Brian peterson on November 10, 2020 at 8:47 am

    I am an HVAC technician I typically drive between service calls all day and eat my lunch between jobs while traveling. I drive 100 to 200 miles a day. Why should I stop and make my day any longer when I am in my vehicle trying to get to another service call. This is really a disruption and just makes my day longer. I don’t need to stop for 30 min. I am
    Resting between job locations.

    • Joshua Petrie on November 13, 2020 at 4:55 pm

      ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ no one is forcing you…? But also, the protections are there for you ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  22. Sam on November 4, 2020 at 8:40 am

    If the employee asks to take their lunch break at the end of the sixth hour because they have a personal appointment, is it okay to allow them to? For example, they start at 8 AM but ask to take their lunch at 2 PM. Is it okay to approve these type of requests occasionally?

    • Joshua Petrie on November 4, 2020 at 3:16 pm

      “…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.”

      • Sam on November 5, 2020 at 11:03 am

        To clarify, they would come back to work after their 2 PM lunch. So they would work an eight hour day, 8 AM – 5 PM, but per their request this one time, take their lunch at 2 PM. Thanks.

        • Joshua Petrie on November 5, 2020 at 2:12 pm

          Thanks, so the employee would be owed a meal penalty for clocking out after the fifth hour.

          (I’m not a lawyer, just a random Internet dude) I would be guess an employer would want to protect themselves from CA labor law disputes/suits and and employee should want their employer to follow the laws that are in place for their benefit.

          That being said, the employer appears to be open to risk if they do not pay the penalty hour and allow the employee to move their meal break pass 5 hours, when working more than 6 hours.

          So I guess the employer would have to ask themselves if it’s worth the risk (to not pay), or if they should just pay the penalty hour, or if it’s not worth the risk or pay and to tell the employee that the employer must follow the law. If the last of those options, the employer could offer the employee take their regular and proper meal break, then allow them to clock out a second time for their personal appointment. Just be aware that the employee may trigger split shift pay in this instance:

  23. MV on October 27, 2020 at 3:22 pm

    My employer docks me one hour pay if I clock out late for lunch, meaning I clock out for my meal after my 5th hour of work. I clocked out late for lunch twice this week and will be docked 2 hours pay on this paycheck. This is a new policy and it doesn’t seem right. Is this legal? I can’t find any information on this.

    • Joshua Petrie on October 28, 2020 at 4:19 pm

      Are you sure? The name is a “meal penalty” so it may seem like that, but by law it should be that they pay you an extra hour for working past the 5th hour.

      Here’s the info you want:

      It’s also summarized on this page above the comments, with a calculator to help you know where the breaks should fall (although, it assumes you’re clocked in for the whole time, so watch out for that).

  24. Ramon on October 25, 2020 at 10:51 am

    Is it legal for an employer to make you take your lunch break right after clocking in? Often we are scheduled to work at 3:30 and forced to take our lunch at 3:30, come back at 4 and work the rest of the night sometimes until 11:30.

    • Joshua Petrie on October 26, 2020 at 11:15 am

      No, and this question has recently come up a lot in the comments. There has to be a a rest break before a meal break.

  25. Magaly Gonzalez on September 30, 2020 at 9:33 am

    My usual normal working hours are 8am – 5pm. I get a 10 break in the morning and a 10 min break in the afternoon, and a 1 hour lunch break. My question is in regards to days that I need to leave early for doctor appointments. Scenario, I come in at 8am and leaving at 3pm (7 hour shift). I want to waive my 1 hour lunch and only take a 30 min lunch instead, so my hours on the clock would be 6.5 hours worked, with a 30 min lunch. My employer is stating that I need to take the entire hour lunch and not the 30 min. lunch break. Since I am not working the entire 8 hour shift, can my employer force me to take the entire 1 hour lunch? She stated that if I clock back in early from lunch say 45min lunch, that I would still be docked for the entire hour? Is that possible for her to do under California State Law. I know that we are entitled to a 30 min lunch by law but can she force 1 hour lunch break even if I only want to take 30 min lunch break only, because I am leaving early, but working more than 6 hours technically? If I was only working a 6 hour shift then my shift would end after the 6 hours and I’d take no lunch. But I’m really confused on her statement that I must take an hour lunch and not a 30 min lunch. Please help.

  26. jose jauregui on September 29, 2020 at 11:12 am

    Can my employer legal adjust my clock in and clock out times to prevent paying me o.t ? We are paid paid 3 minutes before and 3 minutes after for uniform change time, but it takes more time than that. I usually arrive 15 minutes before and stay at least 10 minutes after and have never been paid for that time.

  27. Scott on September 23, 2020 at 7:57 am

    Anyone have any links to the actual law which states that an employer in California can not make you take your 30 min lunch 1 hr into your 8.5 hr shift? I know some states are very specific about that. I’ve read it’s likely not allowed in California, but looking for most documentation to show our boss. Thanks!

    • Joshua Petrie on September 24, 2020 at 4:31 pm

      There isn’t a super clear answer to this, and I’ve been looking for years, lol. If you try chatting with them on this site, they’ll tell you that you have to have a rest break before your meal break.

      Setting up an example, let’s say you’re scheduled 7am–4:00pm. They have to give you a 10 minute break “in the middle of each work period”. ( see also FAQ #2 on that page) So, if they’re sending you to lunch 1 hour in, you need a rest break ~30 min in.

      Unfortunately, the remaining time can be worked with no meal break because it was already satisfied. However, in an 8–10 hour work day, there is another rest break due before clocking out (that also needs to be in the middle, as above).

      • Eugene Lee on September 24, 2020 at 4:36 pm

        Joshua Petrie has it right. There is a Supreme Court case called Brinker v Sup. Ct. (2012) where the Supremes stated that, in a normal 8 hour workday, there should be a 30-minute lunch with a 10 minute paid rest break before and after lunch. In general, lunches must start before the end of the fifth hour into a shift. Unfortunately, there isn’t any more guidance on the timing of the lunch break beyond that and what the Supremes said in Brinker. I’ve never prosecuted a case where the employer forces the employee to start lunch near the start of their shift. But I can certainly imagine doing it if such a case comes to my office.

    • Joshua Petrie on September 24, 2020 at 4:33 pm

      I forgot about this comment, which cites court cases, and explains it in a more detail:

    • Joshua Petrie on September 24, 2020 at 4:35 pm

      Oh, I’m now guessing you’re the same Scott.

  28. Ashley on September 22, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    If I work a 10a-4p shift, should I get a break and a 30min lunch or just a 30min lunch?

  29. Singh on September 16, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    I work part time 20hrs/week, and my employer scheduled COVID testing for me on my day off.
    Shall I get paid a minimum of 2hrs or only 10/15 mins that I report to??

  30. Mario Rodriguez on September 15, 2020 at 12:36 pm

    I start work at 6:30 am first break is at 9:30 am lunch is at 12pm and last break is at 2:30 pm never singed a waiver and I work on saturdays 5hours with only one 15 minute break at start at 6:30 break at 9:30 and end at 12pm sometimes I work 11.5 hours with only one lunch break and no waivers singed . are theise considered infractions per each break not taken on time??? Or not

    • Joshua Petrie on September 16, 2020 at 12:46 pm

      Rest breaks, as I understand it, are a bit more lenient than meal breaks. (Further reading: )

      In your example, you should be clocked out for lunch no later than the start of 11:30am (the end of your fifth hour of work).

      “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.”

      Your second meal is due by the end of your 10th hour, unless you and your boss agree to waive it (and you did not waive your 1st meal), so in your example, second meal is due by 5pm (I believe this is where this site’s calculator goes wrong, though I could still not understand it all fully). If you worked 11.5 hours and started at 6:30 am, you’d be off at 7 pm with two meal breaks and 6:30 with one meal and waiving the second.

      AFAIK, any actual signed waiver would be for the employer’s protection against the employee saying they did not agree to waive their meal. So if the employer doesn’t have a waiver to sign, then they are leaving the company open for 3 years (statute of limitations on getting these in a lawsuit, as I understand it).

      See also:

    • Michael on November 4, 2020 at 6:23 am

      Hey Mario

      Did u ever figure this situation out because I’m going through almost the same situation at my job .

      • Joshua Petrie on November 4, 2020 at 3:14 pm

        Hey Michael,

        Did you happen to read my reply?

  31. P.C on September 15, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    Can ones job make you take an one hour and 15 minute lunch so that they can avoid paying you overtime . And if your shift isn’t complete they send you home and cut your hours by default because the lunch was so long ?

    • Joshua Petrie on September 16, 2020 at 12:49 pm

      I’m sorry I did not understand your question or example completely, but here is my answer to the best of my ability:

      AFAIK, the employer directs the employee’s time schedule including all clock in and clock out events. (Whether the punches happen should be up to the employee, however that’s a separate discussion.) The employer may incur a split shift penalty, where applicable:

      Also, if they’re cutting your hours short you may be eligible for reporting time pay:

  32. A on September 12, 2020 at 2:04 am

    I work over 6 hours at a restaurant, hourly supervisor.
    Get a free meal, but never given 30 mins of break time.
    I have sometimes worked more than 8 hours with no break, just one meal.

    Is this legal?

  33. William Bradford on September 11, 2020 at 12:02 pm

    We have overnight staff that works by themselves all night but cannot leave the property during that time. In the past there was a waiver we have used for overnight staff i.e. security guards where they can essentially take a paid lunch during their shift (eat when they can) but are only scheduled for an 8 hours shift like from 11:00pm to 7:00am.

    Is that legal in California and if so where can I find a sample waiver?

  34. Stephanie on September 10, 2020 at 3:18 pm

    I am forced to clock out on my rest breaks, when it comes to the meal breaks even if I do take it 5hours or more later it doesn’t count as a penalty because I have already clocked out and back in .. is this correct ? I thought our rest breaks are supposed to be paid.

  35. shah popal on September 9, 2020 at 12:27 pm

    I worked for Hertz car sales for almost 3 years. I Never took a lunch break , the 30 minutes break or 10 minutes break. My job title was a Finance manager and for the first year I was not required to clock in or out. After that they changed the rules and I was required to clock in and clock out. All though we didn’t take the break or lunch, we were forced to record the breaks and lunch on our time card. For the first year if I stayed after hours to complete a deal I was not paid over time!!!

  36. KD on September 9, 2020 at 12:59 am

    My employer forced me to work through my meal breaks, rest breaks and work off the clock for 4 months. I am a non exempt manager who worked at least 50 sometimes quite more hours a week. My boss was fired and his boss told me he would work with the payroll department so I could receive compensation. He has been “working on this” for the past year. I have multiple email and message threads of me inquiring about my compensation. Every time he either ignores me, beats around the bush or says they are “working on it”. I don’t know what to do because I don’t know if I have a case or if they have been stringing me along this whole time just so I can go past the statue of limitations. Would I be able to file a lawsuit?

    • Joshua Petrie on September 9, 2020 at 10:49 am

      The statute of limitations is 3 years, but it’s up to you. I’d reach out on the contact page of this website.

  37. T anonymous on September 9, 2020 at 12:48 am

    My employer was forcing me to clock out for my meal break but work through it. I was also not allowed to take any of my ten minute breaks. My employer was fired and his boss said he would work on this for me so I can get reimbursed for my work. He said this last year and I have inquired about it countless times and get the same response.. “they’re working on it” I’m owed compensation for over 50 meal breaks and 50 rest breaks. This took place in 2019 and they are still “working on it”. Should I file a lawsuit in order to get my compensation? I’ve done everything possible to work with them. Please help need advice.

    • Joshua Petrie on September 9, 2020 at 10:48 am

      The statute of limitations is 3 years, but it’s up to you. I’d reach out on the contact page of this website.

  38. Melody on September 5, 2020 at 12:01 pm

    If my employer forces me or a coworker to work past our designated rest breaks up until our meal breaks what actions can we take?

  39. Ana Garcia on September 2, 2020 at 3:17 pm

    I clean houses. When does the lunch break start? Is it when we leave the house we are cleaning or is it when we get our food and sit down to eat?

  40. Randall Robert Blackmore on August 31, 2020 at 1:52 pm

    I understand I am entitled to my lunch break and that my employer has to allow it. Am I REQUIRED to take it. Am I, under the law allowed to freely choose to keep working or does the law force me to take the break?

  41. Linda R Peterson on August 27, 2020 at 8:48 am

    If I work a split shift. I work 6:55am-10:45am clock out then go back at 1:50pm and leave at 5:45pm. Am I required to take a 30 minute meal break?

  42. MWest on August 5, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    Our employees work 6am to 2:30pm Monday – Friday. We current offer morning break at 8 am and lunch at 11am. Our employees want to change their break to 9:30 am and lunch to 12pm. Can we do that legally? Do we need them to sign a waiver of some kind?

    • Joshua Petrie on August 5, 2020 at 11:04 pm

      I’m curious, what length is the morning break?

      If it were 30 (unpaid) minutes, I think 12pm would be fine. (I’m just a random guy from the Internet, btw.)

      Just don’t make it longer than that, or you get in to the split shift pay arena:

      But if the morning break is less than 30, like a regular 10, I wouldn’t think it’d be ok to move it to 12, even with a waiver. (But again, I’m nobody.)

    • Jake on August 20, 2020 at 7:33 pm

      If you are full time employee, can I take my 30 minute lunch break 1 hour into my shift? Leaving my 2 ten minute breaks for the rest of my shift?

  43. Dali on August 5, 2020 at 1:10 pm

    If I work from 8:30 to 5:30 and lunch from 12:00 to 1:30 .
    Is that legal? I get an hour lunch and 30 min paid rest break for the day.
    I do not have to stay on premises.

  44. Tim on August 5, 2020 at 12:32 am

    I work a 40 plus work week. Monday thru Friday. My boss says “some Saturdays are mandatory.
    Can my boss make me work a Saturday too in addition to working my regular work schedule?

    • Joshua Petrie on August 5, 2020 at 8:21 am

      I don’t know enough about this, but look in to “SB 878 Fair Scheduling Act”.

      See also Reporting Time Pay

      That being said, AFAIK, the employer sets the employee’s schedule. I don’t know how legally enforceable it is, but was there any kind of availability form filled out that would be on file that says you aren’t available on Saturdays?

      • Tim on August 6, 2020 at 7:22 am

        No forms. When we were hired our schedule is Monday thru Fri with weekends off. We get paid weekly, every Friday, by check

        But lately he has been wanting to work us Saturdays and Sundays, paid in cash, at the end of the work day, more than our normal rate. He actually provides us lunch too.
        But I don’t want to work, I’m tired from the work week, and the triple digit heat doesn’t help either!

    • Joshua Petrie on August 5, 2020 at 10:57 pm

      Found the answer, I think!

      “Q. Can an employer require an employee to work overtime?

      A. Yes, in general an employer may dictate the employee’s work schedule and hours. Additionally, under most circumstances the employer may discipline an employee, up to and including termination, if the employee refuses to work scheduled overtime. However, an employer cannot discipline an employee for refusing to work on the 7th day in a workweek and is subject to a penalty for causing or inducing an employee to forego a day of rest. An employee who is fully apprised of the entitlement to rest may independently chooses not to take a day of rest.”

  45. Tommy on August 5, 2020 at 12:11 am

    In landscape construction, what is supposed to be provided for employees by employers?
    I heard easy up shade, if digging?
    I also heard water is also responsibility of employers? Is that true?
    We dig trenches for irrigation or holes for trees, in the sun, 100 plus degrees outside with no shade at all.

    • Michelle on September 5, 2020 at 7:02 am

      I have several meal break violations that include OT and I was not offered a break during a 7-8 hour shift. I was also coerced that if I worked during my break I would get the better shifts. Even if I was paid for the violation but was not offered the break do I have a case? For my background reference this is a restaurant setting. So I never received a 10 min break as well.

      • Joshua Petrie on September 7, 2020 at 10:58 am

        I’d recommend using the contact page instead.

  46. Sam on August 5, 2020 at 12:03 am

    Our work shift Work shift 7a-4p Monday-Friday. Weekends are supposed to be off.
    Boss says weekend work for “cash pay” and is “optional” for anyone wanting to make extra.
    Some ppl go to work and some don’t. But the attitude on Monday for not going to work on weekends is obvious.
    Any advice?

  47. David on August 3, 2020 at 9:20 pm

    I start work at 5am my lunch starts at 10am on a 8 hour shift. Is 10am the start of the 6th hour ? Is that a 5 hour lunch violation?

    • Joshua Petrie on August 4, 2020 at 10:53 am

      5am is 0 hour, so what I usually do is count out loud from the start time and then with the next hour open my first finger until the fifth finger opens. So, 6 (index finger opens), 7 (middle), 8 (ring), 9 (pinky), 10 (thumb).

      “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.”

      As long as I can stop work at or before the 5th hour ends I don’t seek a meal penalty hour of pay.

  48. Andres Garcia on August 2, 2020 at 12:34 pm

    Is it legal for them to tell you to take a early lunch ? My shift starts at 12 ends at 8 . They want me to take my lunch at 2 or 3 which I find pointless cause I’m not tired I rather take it at the end of my 5 like I’m supposed to. Please let me know how I can go about it.

    • Joshua Petrie on August 4, 2020 at 11:13 am

      AFAIK, the employer directs an employee’s schedule including breaks. There apparently needs to be a rest break before a meal break (see Eugene’s recent comment: ) so maybe they work it something like this?

      In: 12pm
      (paid 10 min rest break at 1pm?)
      Out: 2pm
      (unpaid 30 min meal break)
      In: 2:30pm
      (paid 10 min rest break at 4:30)
      Out: 8pm
      Total time paid: 7.5 hours

      One thing I’m not absolutely clear on is how the timing of a meal break affects the timing of a meal penalty. I get it from a a maximum POV—like all the info says: if you work over 5 hours you need access to a meal break. But what if you’re not near the 5 hour max, like in your case? I wonder if any 30 minute unpaid break resets the 5 hour clock. Or if within each 5 hour block you need a meal break, but it doesn’t matter too much where (as long as there’s a rest break before it, per the aforementioned link)…?

      If you worked 12 to 3 took a meal break, then worked 3:30 to 8, I don’t see an issue because it’s less than 5 hours (4.5 hours).

  49. Tim on August 1, 2020 at 8:38 am

    Is it illegal for someone to give a meal break and not even give them a 10 min break before the 4th hour of their shift?

  50. Adrianna on July 31, 2020 at 11:09 am

    I informed HR of lunches I clocked out on but continued to work for almost 3 months . They stated they would issue a payment to me this was back in Feb 2020 it is now July and I have made several attempts to find out the status of this but they keep saying they are working on it . Should I peruse with a lawsuit?

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