California Meal Break & Rest Break Law (2023) – Quick Calculator + Charts

california meal break law, california rest break law

Under California meal break law (which is much more generous to employees than federal labor law), if you are a non-exempt worker, you are entitled to a 30-minute uninterrupted, duty-free meal break if you work more than 5 hours in a workday.  You are also entitled to a 10-minute uninterrupted, duty-free rest breaks for every 4 hours you work (or “major fraction” thereof). If your boss doesn’t comply with break law requirements, they are required to pay you one extra hour of regular pay for each day on which a meal break violation occurred, and another extra hour of regular pay for each day on which a rest break violation occurred.

Meal Break & Rest Break Calculator

This meal break and rest break calculator will tell you how many meal and/or rest breaks you are entitled to under California labor law.

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

California Rest Break Law Chart

Hours on the ClockRest Breaks
0 – 3:29 hrs0
3:30 – 6 hrs1
6:01 – 10 hrs2
10:01 – 14 hrs3
14:01 – 18 hrs4
18:01 – 22 hrs5

California Rest Break Requirements

  • Your boss must give you a rest break of at least 10 consecutive minutes that are uninterrupted.
  • Rest breaks must be paid.
  • If you work at least 3.5 hours in a day, you are entitled to one rest break. If you work over 6 hours, you are entitled to a second rest break. If you work over 10 hours, you are entitled to a third rest break.
  • Rest breaks must to the extent possible be in the middle of each work period. If you work 8 hours or so, you should have a separate rest break both before and after your meal break.
  • Your boss may not require you to remain on work premises during your rest breaks.
  • You cannot be required to work during any required rest breaks. [Cal. Lab. C. 226.7]. BUT, you are free to skip your rest breaks provided your boss isn’t encouraging or forcing you to.

California Meal Break Law Chart

Hours on the ClockMeal Breaks
0 – 5 hrs0
5:01 – 10 hrs1
10:01 – 15 hrs2
15:01 – 20 hrs3
20:01 –4

California Meal Break Law Requirements

  • If you work over 5 hours in a day, you are entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes that must start before the end of the fifth hour of your shift. BUT, you can agree with your boss to waive this meal period provided you do not work more than 6 hours in the workday. You can also agree with your boss to an on-duty meal break which counts as time worked and is paid.
  • If you work over 10 hours in a day, you are entitled to a second meal break of at least 30 minutes that must start before the end of the tenth hour of your shift. You can agree with your boss to waive the second meal break if you do not work more than 12 hours and you did not waive your first meal break.
  • You must be allowed to take your meal break off work premises and spend your break how you wish, since it is off the clock.
  • You cannot be required to work during any required meal break. [Cal. Lab. C. 512].
  • As of 2012, your boss has an affirmative obligation to ensure that breaks are made available to you but the actual taking of meal breaks is left to the employee. In other words, you are responsible for “breaking” yourself.

Note, rest breaks and meal breaks are supposed to be separate, they should not be combined. Your boss cannot give you a single 1-hour break and say that that counts as all of your meal breaks and rest breaks.

Keep in mind, there are many exceptions to the above for certain industries, such as the construction, healthcare, group home, motion picture, manufacturing, and baking industries.

Can I Skip or Waive My Breaks?

Employers are required by law to make timely meal and rest breaks available to you, but they aren’t required to make you take them. That is up to you as the employee. If you decide to voluntarily skip or waive your meal or rest break, or to take them late, with no pressure or encouragement from the employer, then that is legally permitted. BUT remember, employers have the right under California labor laws to set your work schedule, including your break schedule. While not required to do it, employers have the right to order employees to go on their meal and rest breaks. If the employee doesn’t comply, the employer has the right to discipline or terminate the employee for insubordination. So it is always a good idea to discuss with your employer beforehand your intention to skip or waive any meal or rest breaks, or to take them late.

Can I Sue My Employer for Violating California Meal Break and Rest Break Law?

Yes you can, and you should. If your employer is denying you meal breaks and rest breaks, you would be entitled to receive a penalty of 1 hour wages per day you were denied any rest breaks, and an additional penalty of 1 hour wages per day you were denied any meal breaks (for a maximum penalty of up to 2 hours wages per day). We can help you file a California labor board complaint. Give us a call at (213) 992-3299. Note, your claims are subject to strict filing deadlines. For meal and rest break violations, the filing deadline is usually considered to be 3 years thanks to a recent California Supreme Court decision. [Murphy v Kenneth Cole Productions, 40 Cal.4th 1094 (2007)], but in certain cases, a 1 year filing deadline could apply.

I Am an Exempt Salaried Worker, Can I Still Sue My Employer?

The correct answer is “it depends”. There are many kinds of exemptions under California labor laws. If you are a supervisor, you may fall under the supervisor exemption, otherwise known as the executive exemption. But that exemption has many requirements which your employer may have blown. Also, other kinds of exempt employees are still entitled to meal break and rest break rights. For instance, truck drivers are often considered exempt. However, under California labor laws, they must still receive their meal breaks and rest breaks. Another example are “inside salespeople” who sell products or services while physically stationed at the employer’s office. While normally considered “exempt”, they are still entitled to meal breaks and rest breaks. Again, consult a lawyer to see if your situation qualifies for breaks.

Call (213) 992-3299 and Get Your Labor Board Complaint Started Now

Feel free to give us a call at (213) 992-3299 if you want to discuss filing a labor board complaint. We have successfully obtained awards for our clients in over 97% of our trials and hearings — one of the best trial records in the State of California. Let us put our decades of legal experience to work for you.

Photo courtesy of cjmellows


  1. Sarah Norberg on May 13, 2023 at 2:26 am

    For graveyard / night shift employees at 24 hour facilities like Short Term Residential Facilities STRF / mental health for youth under Community Care Licensing in CA, we waived our meal break as a condition of employment as we need to provide client supervision continuously, including all night.

    What I am not clear on is whether being in a STRF means also forfeiting the two ten minute breaks as a consequence as well – it would make sense needing to provide constant supervision, *but* when we have the coverage for someone else like a float employee to relieve you to take a break, couldn’t we still take two ten minute breaks? Can we stack the two ten minute breaks back to back if so as twenty minutes? I am pretty sure they are supposed to be separate but yes it’s very unclear to me if we could still take two 10 minute breaks when coverage of someone else relieving you to provide the needed supervision, therefore allows for it or not.

  2. Kevin on May 12, 2023 at 11:56 am

    I pay my employees for at least 8 hours every shift, but sometimes they only work 5-6 hours. If they end up working less than 6 hours, do I still need to provide a meal break since I am paying them for 8?

  3. Yolanda Cruz on May 9, 2023 at 9:28 am

    I’m an hourly employee, I want to voluntarily waive my 30 minute meal break so that I’m only at work and away from home 8 hours and not 8.5 hours. Is there a meal waiver or agreement I can make with my employer so that neither one of us is violating a labor law?

  4. Sally Mae on May 6, 2023 at 5:38 pm

    If I worked 12 hours and took my lunch before the 5th hour, and decide to waive my second lunch, does this mean I get paid an additional 30 min for the second lunch I waived?

  5. Mark on May 5, 2023 at 7:30 am

    So, if you’re not given any 10 mins breaks in a 12 hr work shift, is that a 1 hr penalty per 10 mins break not given or is it a 1 hr penalty for all 10 mins breaks not given..?

  6. Cynthia Myers on May 4, 2023 at 12:52 am

    I am a health worker in a ER in CA. We go to work at 7 pm and are usually very busy until around midnight with patients. I am the lead person on shift and can not leave a less qualified person to deal with all problems that might occur. I have no one that comes to relieve me and cover my responsibilities (must be certified and competent to break) and feel that I can not leave my area for breaks or meals. What are my options. I have felt pressured to put down breaks in times that are wanted whether it is true or not, just write it in. I’m ok with this but now they are requiring that we sign a “Break and Meal declaration” form for each pay period. It is a requirement and not asked. I am not going to sign a form that states that I am declaring “under perjury ” that I was providing all the rest periods and meal periods thatI was legally entitled to. I realize that I am putting my job on the line. I may get fired, but I will not purger myself. I was previously ok with the pressure to put down a 30 min lunch break in the times that they wanted me to, but not now that I am having to sign this form. What do I do?!

    • Scott on May 22, 2023 at 12:20 am

      Speak with you union rep, Im sure your concerns are covered by the CBA.

  7. RICH on April 26, 2023 at 4:30 pm

    I’m a non exempt manager of a retail store, we are understaffed and overworked, there’s no time for me to take a lunch, constant customers to take care of. This has been going on for 3 plus years, where I can’t take a uninterrupted lunch. Upper management said it’s fine I work through my lunch. But someone has mentioned this is against CA law and I’m entitled to my break everyday. Can I sue my company and make them audit 3 plus years of time cards to see how how many lunches I missed? I have an email from upper management saying I missed 20 lunch breaks just in one month.

  8. Heidi on April 16, 2023 at 8:40 am

    Is it legal for my employer to make me take my lunch break one hour after starting my shift? My shift is 7 hours.

    • Melody on April 19, 2023 at 4:15 pm

      I’m experiencing the same problem

      • Justin on May 16, 2023 at 12:05 am


    • Melissa Black on April 25, 2023 at 3:13 am

      I have the same question. I work an 8 hr shift. The 1st hr is with another employee then I’m by myself. My manager told me that I need to clock in @ the scheduled time then 5 min later clock out for brk then after 30 min to clock back in. My issue is then I have to go 7 hrs plus without a break. I’m curious if that’s even legal

  9. Lenden M on April 11, 2023 at 1:15 pm

    If I start at 8am, 1pm is the 5th hour for lunch. so what time is the latest that I can take lunch.

    • Ash on May 2, 2023 at 12:03 pm

      12:59pm the absolute latest. If you clock out at 1pm you are too late.

  10. Naomi on March 20, 2023 at 9:59 am

    At the beginning of my employment, I signed a meal waiver form to be good for the entire length of employment. My understanding was that I would still get to take breaks it just didn’t have to be on the exact time frame and if I didn’t want to at all that was fine but if I want to, they still have to let me, right? Am I still entitled to take acbreak or can they refuse it because I signed the form?

  11. Maria on March 19, 2023 at 9:06 am

    I am an exempt employee in an administrative office position. Am I required to take a meal break if requested by my supervisor or can I work eight hours straight? Am I required to work overtime if requested by my supervisor?

  12. marisol jimenez on March 17, 2023 at 10:41 am

    Can I sleep during my 30 minute lunch in california or it against the law?

  13. Kevin Severe on March 8, 2023 at 6:04 pm

    I work a 7 hour shift with a 30 min break and 1 15 minute break. I then have 1 and a half hours off and work again for another 5 hours. Do I get a second break and a second lunch?

  14. Rick on March 7, 2023 at 3:20 pm

    I am driving a truck for a company. They pay me $200 for 8 hrs work($25 hr) but, I often workn10 hrs a day in which they pay me $250. Shouldn’t they be paying me overtime?
    Thank You!

  15. An on March 3, 2023 at 1:53 am


    I have a unique situation. My work has approve my accommodation for work from my doctored note for my chronic medical illness. My work approved me to work 5 hours a day.. and if i take additional breaks then I must clock out. I just want your opinion. In the past my work says if i take multiple breaks to use the restroom because I have a overactive bladder.. i had a doctors note for that as well and the supervisor had to approve that I am okay with going to the restroom but i must clock out to do so.

  16. Angela RN on February 27, 2023 at 7:29 am

    I’m a nurse and have a question on this break/meal stuff. I work a 12 hour shift (7pm to 7am). I’ve waived my 2nd meal break. What I really want to know is do we absolutely HAVE to take our meal break before 1am (which would be the 6th hour)? or can we just agree with our employer to take it when we’re ready? And still be in compliance.

    Most of us at my place of employment don’t want to go to lunch that early. We’re not hungry at that point for 1. And we’re usually still busy with tasks until about midnight.

    Thanks for any clarification you can give on this.

    • Vanessa on April 8, 2023 at 10:47 pm

      Hi Angela, did you figure out the answer to this? Wondering because they are also implementing this to us as well. They’re doing15min breaks starting at 8pm…. this directly affects patient care. To top it off, they are making us take 30min breaks also before midnight. Then 15 and 15 after… which is hardly a break.

  17. Naomi on February 25, 2023 at 12:38 am

    I’ve never taken or been sent on a rest break in 6 years I take an hour lunch no pay and work 8 hrs my employer said we’re allowed to have a break whenever we like no need to put on the schedule have someone delegate you to do so no need to record it on my time sheet . I really don’t know when is ok to just go so I don’t .

  18. Nancy on February 22, 2023 at 10:35 pm

    I work as a security guard , we get paid for 8 hours but do not get a meal break or 2 10 min breaks .
    We can eat while working . Is this a violation

  19. BN on February 15, 2023 at 10:48 am

    I work an hourly shift for six hours let’s say
    How many 10 minute breaks am I allowed to have?
    If I work 12pm-630pm how many breaks am I supposed to have with my lunch?

    • Jim on March 12, 2023 at 7:42 am

      If I’m scheduled for 5 1/2 hours entitled to one break and 1/2 hour lunch or not.
      If I was scheduled for six hours entitled to one break and 1/2 hour lunch.
      I was told that if I have a six hour shift, I am only entitled to either one break or one lunch but not both?

  20. Heather on February 15, 2023 at 5:29 am

    If my regular shift is 7:30a-4-:30pm and I start work T 6am to work overtime, is my first break at 8am or at 9:30am?

  21. Shannon RN, CCRN on February 4, 2023 at 8:52 am

    I am looking for clarification. I am an ICU RN working 12 hour shifts. I waive my second meal break. When should my meal break be taken so that it’s not considered late? My employer stated that my meal break isn’t considered late until after the 10th hour. Is this factual? Every hospital I’ve worked at prior to this has made me take my meal break before the 6th hour. Thanks in advance.

  22. Monica on January 19, 2023 at 8:07 am

    Clocking in and out for meal breaks: We work in a very busy office. When the office staff clocks in and out for work we use a face recognition time clock. (big pain sometimes it takes many times to final be recognized) We were told by the owner for lunch we can hand write our clocking in and out for for lunch on a time card. The HR department is telling us we can’t do that. She said it is illegal and if a few people are doing it has to be approved for everyone otherwise the HR and manager can personally get sued. IS THIS TRUE???

    Where can I find information on 2023 PTO. Some employees PTO time is being deducted. I am pretty sure we are being screwed on this too.

  23. Joanne McFall on January 18, 2023 at 8:30 pm

    I am an Asst manager at a 24 hr convenience store and on occasion I am required to work a graveyard shift that starts at 10pm and I am scheduled until 6am but it’s very rare that happens. I am not given a meal or breaks due to the fact I am by myself.

    I am compensated as follows
    $17/hr for 10pm-12am
    $18/hr for 12pm-4am
    $17/hr for 4am-6am

    For the hrs I work past 8 hours they are reporting as straight time claiming it’s not OT.

    I feel I should be paid:
    $17/hr for 4hr
    $18/hr for 4hr
    $17.50 for 1hr do to no meal break
    $26.25 for any time worked after 6am if I start at 10pm.

    Can you please clarify this for me.

    • Tommy Gunn on January 30, 2023 at 1:23 pm

      The reason i see for two different wages is due to a rate premium, 12-4am may be $1.00 more per hour. It actually should be $18. for the lunch penalty due to that was your wage during your the required time slot for your lunch break,(before your 5th hour). Totaling 9 hours for the shift. if you work over your shift time it should be at time and a half of $25.50 due to the fact there is no shift differential. Hope this helps. Tommygunn….

  24. Tyrone Onyegbulem on January 17, 2023 at 11:05 am

    10:33 AM
    Our “tour of duty” 7am to 1930 (730pm). one 30min meal period and four 10 minute breaks.
    They proposed we get two 30 min breaks but that would extend our tour of duty to 2000 (8pm). If we wanted to leave at 730 we would have to waive one meal period. Please clarify

  25. Miriam Fredrickson on January 11, 2023 at 11:15 am

    I work a 8-5pm work shift as an except office admin in OC, do I get breaks, OT?

  26. Corinne on January 7, 2023 at 9:21 pm

    I work in a hospital where the staffing ratio is 4:1 in my department . If there are more than four patients there has to be two nurses working the floor. My question is who’s responsibility is it to find the second nurse to cover me while I take my break? Or can I clock out for a break leaving the other nurse with more than four patients for 30 minutes? It’s usually quite difficult finding another nurse to cover breaks and I usually don’t get my breaks.

    • CEE on February 3, 2023 at 3:17 pm

      Another nurse should be covering lunch breaks- and it is the responsibility of the scheduler/ employer to do that. If they expect employees to follow their policy 4:1, then they have to make sure they facilitate everyone can follow the same standard- meaning providing coverage with a floating nurse that can cover everyone’s lunch breaks for the duration of the shift. I would discuss with direct supervisor and if no reasonable solution is found – email HR Department.

      What is the meal break law for healthcare in California?

      With the passage of S.B. 1334, if public-sector and UC hospitals fail to provide meal and break coverage, they will be required to pay the employee for the missed meal and/or break, thereby creating an incentive to prioritize safe staffing.

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