Legal news and tips for employees, by Law Office of Eugene Lee

What Break Periods Am I Entitled To?

california rest break laws meal break lawsUnder California law (which is much more generous to employees than federal law), if you are a non-exempt worker, you are entitled to meal and rest breaks: a 30-minute meal break if you work more than 5 hours in a workday, and 10 minutes breaks for every 4 hours you work. There are other requirements though. If your boss doesn’t comply with break requirements, they are required to pay you one extra hour of regular pay for each day on which a break violation occurred.

For the nitty gritties, see below:

Rest Breaks

  1. If you work at least 3.5 hours in a day, you are entitled to a rest break.
  2. Your boss must give you a rest break of at least 10 consecutive minutes for each 4 hours worked.
  3. Rest breaks must to the extent possible be in the middle of each work period.
  4. Rest breaks must be paid.
  5. Your boss may require you to remain on work premises during your rest break.
  6. You cannot be required to work during any required rest break. [Cal. Lab. C. 226.7]. BUT, you are free to skip your rest break provided your boss isn’t encouraging or forcing you to.

Meal Breaks

  1. If you work over 5 hours in a day, you are entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes. 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.
  2. If you work over 10 hours in a day, you are entitled to a second meal break of at least 30 minutes. 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.
  3. Your boss has an affirmative obligation to ensure you are free to take your meal break off work premises.
  4. You cannot be required to work during any required rest break. [Cal. Lab. C. 226.7]. Your boss has an affirmative obligation to ensure you are actually relieved of all duty and are not performing any work during meal breaks.

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

If your employer is violating your rights to meal and rest breaks, you should contact a lawyer right away. Your claims could be 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.

Keep on taking those breaks!

Photo courtesy of cjmellows


1040 Responses to What Break Periods Am I Entitled To?

  1. I’m working 91/2 hours 8 hours regular and 11/2 overt time , my question is were are untitled to take 3 break and 1 lunch break? Cuz what happened is we working 9 1/2 but we have only 2 breaks and 30 minutes lunch so if our employers fallows the California break law? Thank you

  2. I work as a courier. We get a break during the day and it is all on the up and up. My question is, can my employer make me take a longer break than I want to take. I only want to take a half hour. Sometimes they tell us that we have to take an hour or more for lunch due to low volume. There is no way to make deliveries during our clocked out break. This sometimes makes it harder to get the work done in the time we are allowed.

    • Yes your employer can make you take a longer lunch and tell you when to take it,CA law only says your lunch must be at least 30 minutes and it must be uninterrupted.

  3. What about if the employer uses this State law against the employee. For example, I mistakenly taken 29 minutes meal break instead of 30 and the employer gave me a warning for not using the full 30 minutes. The employer did not pay me for that one minute and also I got interrupted while I was taking my meal break. The way I see it is that the employer is using the law to his advantage to harass its employees and even use it as an excuse to fire them.

  4. so my employer is changing our break time from clock in 7am first break 10-10:15am lunch 12-12:30pm last break 2-2:10pm to clock in 7am break 10-10:15am luch 12-12:40pm we work 8 hour days, is not having a last break legal?

  5. our company works 10 hrs shifts. start time @ 5:00 am to 3:30 pm. we get a break @ 7:30 -7:45. then we take lunch at 10:00-10:30. another break @ 12:00-12:15. with our last break @ 2:00-2:10.

    my question is that our employer doesn’t provided or post information about the option to take another lunch break should they? Also, another concern i have is that if we don’t sign and turn in our “meal wavier” our employer has stated that we wont get paid for waived lunch even though we continue working. isn’t it the duty of the supervisor to ensure everyone is taking lunch if not turning in a “meal waiver”?

    • You have to work over 10 hours in a day for the second lunch to apply, but may be able to ask for one. Take note though, the company is giving you 15 minute breaks in the morning and at noon. the statute only requires them to give you 10, so in perspective, you might be able to force a second lunch, but it will be unpaid, and they can always reduce the breaks to 10 minutes instead of 15. Watch what you ask for as they are already going above and beyond on the breaks and not required to do that. Plus, they are required to give the employees a break for every 4 hours worked, yet they have given you a third break at 2pm.

    • My boss has everybody once they clock in take their break withiwithin 1 to 15 of clocking for the day . What are the laws for that.

  6. I work for a construction company 10 hrs w an hour lunch break no bathroom on site s Ok sometimes and no water provided is this on violation of labor laws?

    • Sounds like a violation of health and safety standards. You should consider filing a complaint with OSHA. They are not allowed to retaliate against you for making an OSHA complaint.

      By the way, you are also supposed to be getting a 10-minute PAID rest break for every 4 hours worked. If you work 10 hours, you should actually be getting 3 rest breaks. If you work over 10 hours on the clock, you should be getting two 30-minute meal breaks.

  7. What about in the security Industry? Where Private Security guards are scheduled to work at a HOA property or construction site. They are being paid to be on site, per this law if the guard is to take a no duty relieve of all duty lunch, but there is a mention if the employee and the company agree to take an on duty lunch and waive their right to take a duty free lunch if the employee agrees to do this can they eventually sue for this issue down the road if they leave the company?

    • No, under the statute, certain critical jobs, ie. security guards still have to be given a lunch during their 8 hour shift and is paid by the company. in that case, the company can keep you on the site since they are paying for your lunch, if you do not want to be paid for your lunch, you need to work that out with your employer. I work in the industry and guards are paid for lunches as it would be a critical issue to allow them to leave a post for lunch thereby removing the very reason they are there. Some sites with multiple guards who can maintain coverage would be different. as long as you and the company signed the waiver for off duty meal breaks you are both ok and cannot sue them later. If you want off duty meal break however, the company can limit the sites you can work at since they require on duty meal breaks for operational concerns.

  8. I’m a dental hyg and don’t usually get scheduled breaks. I can take a break only if a patient cancels but many times I don’t get a planned break. Should my employer pay us for this? Also we work from 7-5:30 with lunch from 1-2. Should we be taking lunch from 12-1?

    Thank you

    • If you are not able to take your breaks each day, you should bring it up to management and put the ball in their court.

      If you start at 7 am, your lunch must start no later than 12:59 pm. Yes, lunch should be starting before 1 pm.

      Breaks are a health issue! I see some young people working through their breaks, but they don’t realize that they will pay the price for that later in life if they do that regularly.

    • CA law states that you are entitled to a 10 minute paid rest break every 4 hours BUT the employee is not required to take them. Use them or lose them, just like sick and personal days.

  9. I work as a resident advisor for clients in a rehab alone on a night shift. The shift is 10hr30mins, im required to stay on site at all times and if a client wakes up to talk i must be available.
    I don’t get paid that extra 30 minutes i work and they tell me i have a 30 min lunch but I’m told not to clock out. When I look at my time sheets they alter my times to read 5hr30mins and 4hr30mins as if i clocked out for a flat 10hr shift.
    I essentially can have lunch anytime after 11pm but but still, if a client wants to talk i must drop everything and deal with the issue. Am I entitled to compensation?

    • Sounds like a lot of violations going on there. They especially should not be altering your clock ins and outs. You should talk with a lawyer about your situation.

      • Ill do that. This has been happening since the company was created from what I’m told, I dont understand why they have not been brought to court yet.

    • If you choose to work through lunch and your boss is aware you are working, then you should be paid for that time. However, since it is your choice you are “waiving” your lunch break. Therefore you aren’t entitled to an extra 1 hour premium for missed lunch.

  10. I work at a restaurant and my employer makes us take our breaks the minute we walk into work. They even made our start times 30 mins sooner to adjust for that. Can they make us take our break that early? I thought I remembered a law about not being able to take a break until the 2 hour of working mark. Am I mislead in that?

    • I also work at a restaurant where our new manager insists the entire staff take a 30 minute meal break after working for only 30 minutes or sometimes less — he has stated that we should punch out a 1 minute early at 29 minutes after the hour we punched in so we can be ready at a minute before 10:59 for his 11am meeting.

      On the weekends we are required to punch in at 830am. Take a break at 9am and then clock in at 930 to work straight through until 4pm or later — depending on how many tables we have left — all of this without a break. We are lucky if we can get a bathroom break.

      Is this legal??

      • The law is murky on the timing of meal breaks. A supreme court case called Brinker mentions that there should usually be a rest break on either side of a meal break, but permits exceptions. What those exceptions are is unclear. That having been said, I think it’s a bad idea for employers to do this as I think it invites lawsuits.

    • The only clear requirement is that meal breaks must start before the end of the fifth hour into your shift. The law on early breaks is a little murky, unfortunately.

    • Generally speaking, you have to be allowed to take your lunch break before the end of the fifth hour. And you’re supposed to be taking your a rest break both before and after your lunch break. You can “waive” your meal break by signing a waiver. You can also “agree” to take on-duty meal breaks, which means you work while you eat. Rest breaks, though, can’t be waived. So it’s not a simple answer.

    • Not if you wanted your rest breaks and weren’t allowed to them. This assumes you are a non-exempt employee, though, and aren’t part of a union that has agreed to something different in the union agreement.

  11. I an employee works an 8 hour shift with a rest break after 2.5 hours and a lunch break after 5 hours, are they entitled to a second rest break with only 3 hours left to work after lunch?

  12. I have one employee who has 7 1/2 hour shift. Am I required to give only one or two breaks? We pay based on 15 minute increaments.

    • Generally speaking: 2 paid 10-minute rest breaks and a 30-minute meal break. There are some industry-specific exceptions (like construction, caregiver, etc).

  13. I am the director of a preschool. During the children’s nap time the teachers rotate their lunch breaks, where by state staff ratio laws the number of children to staff doubles. Can I require my teachers to remain on the premises during their break time? This insures that in the even of an emergency like fire alarm, earthquake or other safety issue their are the correct amount of teachers for safety purposes in the classrooms. That means the staff must go back to the children and attend to safety concerns and/or assist them to evacuate, etc…..

  14. I work as a full-time security officer. My employer recently announced that officers can no longer leave the premises for breaks. We take one 15-20 minute long “rest break” per shift, since we waived our meal breaks/agreed to on-duty meal breaks upon being hired. I know California law states that an employer can require employees to remain on site during rest breaks but the situation that confuses me is this: if an employee has not been relieved for over 5 hours, would they legally be entitled to a 30-minute meal break in which they can leave the job site? Or does the on-duty meal break apply here as well? Thanks!

  15. is it mandatory to take a hours lunch ? My boss said I need to take a hour lunch when I only take 30min lunch . I work 8 hours on a daily.

    • You have to be allowed to take a 30-minute minimum meal break. If the meal break goes over 1 hour, that might constitute a “split shift”, entitling you to a split shift premium, depending on how much over minimum wage you are paid. But yes, your employer can make you take a meal break ranging between 30 minutes and 1 hour (and possibly more depending on how much you are paid over minimum wage).

  16. I work P/T and usually work fro 4:30 and get off at 10pm,lately my schedules have been “adjusted to close at 10 pm one day and open the next day at 6am,is there such a law that states a minimum of “rest hours” before starting the next shift ?

    • Typically it’s 8 hours of rest between shifts… but that doesn’t count the time it takes to get home, go to bed, wake-up, shower and drive back in to work… :/

  17. As an exempt employee, can an organization/company force you to work through your lunch and give you no other breaks? It seems the answer is yes, but I thought I’d check.

    • If you are exempt, then in most cases you aren’t entitled to meal or rest breaks. It really depends on what the specific exemption is, though. With some exemptions, you are still required to be given breaks.

  18. Today at work, I was scheduled to work 8 am to 3 pm. I had been at work for almost 2 hours already when I looked at the schedule and I noticed that I was only given a 30 minute lunch at 11 am. No 10-15 minute breaks were scheduled for me like they used to do. I called my supervisor and asked her why I didn’t have any 10-15 minute breaks scheduled? Because I was really hungry and needed to eat. Why did I only have a lunch at 11 am? That would mean I would work for 3 hours, have a 30 minute lunch at 11am, then work for another 3 1/2 hours, totaling up to 6 1/2 hours by the end of the day. I asked her if I could have a break at 10 am and a 30 minute lunch at 12 pm instead, because I was really hungry. She said my boss is changing the schedule and doing it this way now. Is this illegal? Did she lie to me? She said she would bring me a food bar and at 10 am, and I could take a break when our other coworker came in, but that was only because I asked her for it and that they weren’t going to schedule breaks for me or anyone else anymore, only a 30 minute meal period. Does it matter that my shift was split by a 30 minute lunch like that or does it matter more that my total hours for today were 6 1/2? 3 hours, 30 minute lunch, then 3 1/2 hours. That’s 6 1/2 total hours worked Am I actually entitled to a 10-15 minute rest period as well? It just still doesn’t seem fair or right to make me work a 6 1/2 hour day without both a 30 minute meal break and a 10-15 rest period. Am I right? Did my supervisor try to cheat me out of a break I’m entitled to or am I wrong? Please help!! Thank you.

  19. I worked at a hotel started at 630am had hr lunch 11-1200 then off at 230pm
    I was told I should have had another 10 minute BREAk ?

  20. For the past year I’ve been working at a restaurant as a cook it has a tendency to be full at times.There I’ve worked 7-8 hours a day 6 days a week without a break in-between. I work from the afternoon to the bight. In the afternoon there’s only two cooks and it gets overwhelming full so much so that if you were to take your brake you would only leave one cook and he wouldn’t be able to do it himself. And in the night time There’s 4 cooks again if one of the cooks were to take their brake the other 3 wouldn’t be able to do it themselves. They use this as justification for not giving me breaks. Now I now this is illegal how can I even begin to file a wage claim?

  21. my issue is I worked at a hotel for a year I started at 630am ended 230pm
    lunch break was 11am to 1200. did not get any more breaKS my understanding is this was illegal because I should have gotten anothef 10 or fifteen minute break cab someone respond please/

    • You are entitled to 2 minute breaks and a 30 minute break. First 10-15 minute between 8-8:30am, lunch at the 5th hr. between 11-11:30 and the second 10-15 minute between 1-1:30pm. That’s how’s done if you follow the labor laws.

  22. I worked with a company that didnt pay me my training pay and my last day i worked ontime am i entitled to that 15% interest on my wages

  23. I own a staffing agency and have an employee that works off-site. She is a RN and she works a 8 hour day, 7am-4pm, she usually take her one hour lunch break at 2:30pm. is that legal? Must she take her lunch break by 12pm? Thanks.

    • You should not have your two paid breaks combined with your unpaid lunch, if that is the situation. You should receive the breaks as close to the middle of each 4 hours as is possible, based on work flow needs. Ideally you would have a 10min around 8 am, 30 min lunch about 10, and another 10 min break about 12pm. I don’t believe it is directly illegal, depending on the nature of the work, as long as you are being paid for 20 minutes of the lunch break.

    • Hi I work 10-hour days 4 days a week my schedule is 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and I get a 10 minute break then my lunch is at 12- 12 :30 and I go home at 3:30 that’s seven hours until my lunch what should I do or can I do anything

  24. i work from 8:30am to 5:30pm with one hour break, but sometimes i have to leave early at work and so i take my 30min break 12:30-1:00 instead of 12:30-1:30. i clock back in to work and clock out 5:00pm. Is this legal?

  25. Can employer force you to take lunch away from desk? I like to use my work computer while I eat but employer is trying to say we have to leave our desks during lunch now.

    • Your employer has a right to require you to leave the work area during meals. This can be for security purposes by limiting unnecessary access to sensitive material, discouraging personal use of company equipment, and to protect company assets by limiting their exposure to spilled foods and drinks.

  26. Can my employer force me to not eat lunch at my desk? We have a lunch room but it is always croweded so I eat at my desk. They are now saying we cannot do that.

    • Yes, the employer can do that. What they can’t do is the opposite: force you to eat at your desk unless you’ve agreed to an on-duty meal break or signed a meal break waiver.

  27. I’m a college student working fast food and I primarily work graveyard shift. My employer only has 1 other person on average with me and it’s impossible to take any breaks. I work 10:15pm-6:00am when my co-workers actually show up on time, but most days I’m here until 6:30am with no breaks. Is this legal?

  28. What if an hourly employee works 7.5 hours – 9:30am to 6pm. Gets one 15min break at noon and lunch at 230pm.and no break in afternoon. Is the employee enititled to second break in the afternoon?

  29. My employer regularly gives me my lunch around 1- 12 hours after I clock in for an 8 hour shift. They do this to prevent lunch violations/penalties, but what about all that time on the back half of my shift? If I work from 1- 10, and take a 30 minute lunch from 2- 230, I have 7.5 hours without a lunch. Is this legal? Do they owe me lunch premium?

  30. I work 8hrs a day from 7am-3pm and I dont get lunch nor break. What can I do? Is this illegal?

    Note: My company wanted me to sign a policy about my breaks but they gave it to me about 2 weeks ago and I have been working for them 2 years now why would they give me this notice after 2 years of work…??

    Thank you

    • They are asking you to waive your breaks. If you sign the policy letter, it means that you agree not to take a break during your work period, which is legal. The same applies to your lunch break. I think you should contact the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement. Your company has been in violation of California Labor Laws for at least the 2 years you have worked for them. The fact that your company asked you to sign a release indicates that they are knowingly violating California Labor Law. As I understand the labor laws require that you be compensated one hour of pay for each day a violation occurred. An Attorney could advise you better, but I think you might be entitled to $5000 compensation or more.

      • In California regardless of when you signed the waiver, the law would still be on your side for all meal breaks missed in the last 2 years. If you file a wage claim they will have to pay you an hour (paid at your hourly rate) for every violation and they cannot retaliate against you for this, you can proceed even further if you face any retaliation. I work in HR and have have combed through a few of these claims.

  31. I work 6am to 5pm. First break at 915, lunch at 1115 to 1145 and our last break is at 130. I believe we should get another break before we clock out before 5pm correct. Please help us out. We are tired of this crap at work.

    • Yes Tevis, they are shorting you one break if you are working 12+ hours everyday. We get a break every 2.5 hours from our clock in time. So in your case, your break schedule should be as follows:
      First – 8:30am
      Lunch – 11am
      Second – 1:30pm
      Third – 4pm
      2nd Lunch – 6:30pm (if necessary)
      Hope this helps…

  32. I was denied my two 10 minutes breaks and was only given my 30 minute break in a 8 hours working day. What should I do?

  33. I work 10am-7pm. I get my lunch at 1:30pm and my 10min break at 4:30pm. Should I be getting one more break?

    • Yes you should. Google “California Rest Breaks Law”. If this has been going on for some time, then you should contact the California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement. As I understand the Law you are entitled to one hour of compensation at your current rate of pay for each day that the violation occurred. The catch is that you need to document each violation.

  34. I want to know if I am giving my employees the right amount of breaks. They work from 10am-7pm. We give them a lunch break between 1-1:30 and 10min break at 4:30.

  35. Just curious about the 10 minute rest periods we have. We work 10 hours a day and get 2 -10 minute rest periods and one 30 meal break. What’s bothering me is that they added a bell to go off at 8 mins on the rest period to be back in our work spot by 10 minute bell. To me that’s unfair if you need to make some food or go get some coffee which take at least 2 minutes. Then you get if your lucky 6 minutes of rest and have to be back to your area by the 10 minute bell. Is this legal?

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