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


1092 Responses to What Break Periods Am I Entitled To?

  1. I work an 8 hr shift and i get 3 breaks, 2 breaks and 1 lunch. My gf does also but she will only have 1 break and 1 lunch. Her other employees on the other hand does not because they have 2 break and 1 lunch. What i am asking is, is this complying with ca labor rights?

  2. Meal break between what time..??? Between 4th and 6th hour. Or does it have to be completed by the 6th hour… California law?? And where does it state the information??

  3. Im a small business owner with only 4 employees. Most of the shift the employees are in company owned vehicles servicing equipment at customer locations or traveling to/from those locations. How should we be handling the meal and 10 minute rest break? Obviously hard scheduling a 10min break might not work if they are cruising up highway 5 at the time they are suppose to take a break (same with lunch). What about the lunch break and allowing them to take it off site? Do we need to allow them to take a company vehicle to go get lunch when they are at a customers location? Can we have a policy that they are not allowed to drive more than X miles off the scheduled route for personal business?

  4. I work at a gas station and last year in 2016 I signed a contract saying that we work straight time with no breaks or lunch. It is now 2017 I have not signed a new contract and there are some days where I work eight hours and 10 hours shifts and I’m not giving one single break or lunch is that legal can they do that is my contract from last year void?

  5. At what time is my second meal break required? I have signed waver for second meal break. I start at 12pm and usually off before 12am. There have been times when I would get off anywhere between 12am and 1am. My question is at what time must I take a second meal break? At 12am(12hrs from my start time), OR 1230am (12 hrs of actual time worked)

  6. I start my shift at 12pm and typically work until 12am (11.5 paid). There are times when I finish my shift between 12am to 1am. My question is at what time am I required to take my second meal break. I have signed

  7. I am a registered dental assistant and have been in the field for 12+ years . i have never been given breaks . Usually an hour lunch but not always . Is that to make up for the lack of breaks?

    • No – it entitles you to ONE 30-minute off-the-clock, unpaid, uninterrupted meal break where you are permitted to leave the office and go where you want.
      If you are on the clock for over 10 hours, you get a second 30-minute meal break.

  8. I work from 8am to 2:30pm. Work didn’t schedule me for lunch and usually. I’m an hourly paid employee. Is this legal for me to work straight through past 6 hours with no lunch…even though i would like to have a lunch? Also, if the lunch have to work past the 6 hours with no lunch, is it the employers responsibility to at least provide lunch? Thanks so much!

    • If you work over 5 hours, you must be allowed to take a meal break if you want to. The meal break can be unpaid, but it must be uninterrupted and you must be allowed to go where you want and do you what you want with those 30 minutes.

      If you are forced to work through lunch, you should make sure you bring it up to the attention of your supervisors. Also, make sure you do it in writing, by text or email.

      There is no requirement that the employer provide food or pay for food. However, if you are denied a meal break, not only must you be paid through lunch, you are entitled to an additional 1 hour of pay for each day your meal break was denied.

  9. I work as a secretary in an office from 8-430 Monday – Friday. I have never been asked to sign a single document regarding my employment; We don’t even have a company handbook or policy manual. I’m told every day to “take my lunch” but during my lunch I am expected to answer incoming phone calls and help people that walk in, or do anything else the boss wants The boss always leaves the premises for lunch but calls me sometimes 4-5 times during my “lunch” and tells me to perform certain tasks they need done immediately. I don’t know if I’m an exempt employee or not, so I don’t know what laws may or may not be being violated by my employer. Can you please help me figure this out?

  10. Can I add my two rest breaks on to my lunch break so that I get one long break of 50 minutes (30 minutes unpaid, and 20 minutes paid)? This would not be a daily occurrence, just once in a while.

    • Yes, if your employer doesn’t object. The employer has the right to set the break policy. Employees must follow that policy, so long as the policy complies with the law.

  11. We work at a 24/7 veterinary hospital. Many times we cannot take our meal breaks before the 6th hour. We take them and make sure that they can be provided, just not always by that time. Is this OK?

    • That depends on who’s responsible for the late lunching violation. If the employees simply aren’t breaking themselves before the start of the sixth hour, there’s no violation. In fact, some employers will even write the employee up for breaking themselves late. However, if the employer is piling too much work on, setting unreasonable deadlines, or ignoring complaints or requests about late lunching, then the employer is on the hook for the late lunching violation. If the latter is the case, consider filing a labor complaint.

  12. I work from 7:30-4:30 in the afternoon. We do have a lunch break but we are still required to work while having our lunch. Also we don’t have even a single rest break (morning and afternoon). This isn’t right, right ?

    • Employees can consent to on-duty meal breaks where the nature of the job requires it. The question is: did you consent to it? And do you do the type of work where an on-duty meal break is necessary? An example would be a security guard who is at a sentry post by himself.

      As for rest breaks, they can never be waived. Since you work a 9 hour shift, you are entitled to two 10-minute uninterrupted on-the-clock rest breaks. If you’re not getting them and you want them, you should bring it up to your employer. Make sure you do it in writing – by text or email, for example. If the employer doesn’t fix the problem, then consider filing a labor complaint.

  13. Not fair…not right…get your break after 2 hrs…then BE SURE to take 30 min lunch & then later in day take another 10 min break!

  14. I work a 7am to 3:30pm shift. I do removal of Lead and asbestos so i am in a containment. as hole group we chose to take our two breaks and lunch together giving us an hour instead of just a half this legal

    • If you choose to do that, then there is no violation. That is considered a waiver of your two rest breaks, which normally are supposed to be separate from meal breaks.

  15. I work 11-730 I get my first break usually around 130 and then at I get my lunch at 230. Is there suppose to be a 2 hour gap in between it is this ok? Also prior to this they would send us on break prior to 2 hours into our shift. Is that allowed

    • Rest breaks normally should be as close to the middle of each four hours worked as possible. But there is some flexibility on this due to the practicalities of different working conditions and environments. As long as you are getting two 10-min rest breaks and a 30-min meal break, and the meal break is starting before the end of the fifth hour, there is probably no violation.

  16. I work 6:30am – 3:00pm. I am non-exempt employee and work for a hospital. Often times we are short staffed. Sometimes I work 6:30am – 2:30pm, 6:30am – 3:30pm or later with no lunch and no break relief. I clock out no lunch at the end of my shift. When I work 6:30am – 2:30pm, no lunch, no break, I clock out no lunch, they pay me for 8 hours. If I work 6:30am – 3:30pm, no lunch, no break, they pay me 8 hours regular pay and 30 minutes overtime. Should I be compensated for my “No Breaks” and should I be compensated differently for my “No Lunch”?

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