Meal and Rest Break Laws in California 2018-01-13T21:30:30+00:00

California Rest Break Law

Most employees in California are entitled to paid rest periods during the workday. They are also entitled to an unpaid meal period, although in some circumstances employees must be paid for their meal periods. When employers fail to comply with California law regarding meal and rest breaks, employees are entitled to a remedy.

California employment attorneys help employees recover compensation when their employers have violated state or federal employment laws, including laws that govern meal and rest breaks. If you believe you have been victimized by an employer’s illegal actions, contact The Haeggquist and Eck Firm to request a review of your case.

Meal Break Laws

California employees are entitled to a 30-minute meal break if they work more than 5 hours in a day, and to another 30-minute meal break if they work more than 10 hours. If the employee works no more than 6 hours in a workday, the meal break can be waived, but only with the employee’s consent.

If the employee is released from all job duties and is free to leave the work site, the employer is not required to pay for time spent on meal breaks. But when an employer requires an employee to perform any kind of work or remain “on duty” during the meal break, or even to remain at the job site during a meal break, the employee is entitled to be paid for the break time. This type of paid “on duty” meal break is allowed only if the employee consents to it in writing and only when the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all duty during the meal break. An employer and employee may not agree to an on-duty meal period unless necessary job duties prevent the employee from being relieved of all job-related responsibilities during the meal break.

An employee is entitled to compensation if the employee volunteers to work through the meal break or is otherwise permitted to work instead of taking the required break. When employees work during meal breaks and are not paid, they are entitled to make claims for back pay.

When employees are denied the opportunity to take a meal break, they are entitled to make claims for “premium meal pay,” consisting of one additional hour of pay for each workday during which the meal period was not provided. The Haeggquist and Eck Firm helps employees pursue appropriate remedies when they worked during meal breaks but were not paid and when they are illegally denied the opportunity to take a meal break.

Rest Period Laws

California employees are entitled to one 10-minute rest break for every 4 hours that they work “or major fraction thereof,” provided that they work more than 3-1/2 hours per day. This means employees are entitled to one rest break for shifts from 3-1/2 hours to 6 hours in length, two rest breaks for shifts of more than 6 hours up to 10 hours, three rest breaks for shifts of more than 10 hours up to 14 hours and so on. The rest break should ordinarily be provided in the middle of each 4-hour work period.

If an employer tries to evade laws by independent contractor misclassification they may be liable.  In this case a possible class action lawsuit might be appropriate.

Unlike meal breaks, rest breaks are paid time, employers may require employees to remain on the business premises during rest breaks. Depending on the business environment, the employer may be required to provide a break room or other suitable environment (other than a bathroom) for employees to use during their breaks. The rest period begins when the employee reaches the break area. This means that the employee is entitled to 10 minutes of rest time at the break area, and time spent walking to and from the break area is not counted as part of that 10 minutes.

If an employer fails to permit an employee to take a rest break, the employee is entitled to one hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate for each day during which a rest period was not made available. The Haeggquist and Eck Firm represents employees in bringing claims to recover penalties for the denial of rest periods.

Lactation Accommodation

Subject to limited exceptions, employers must provide a reasonable amount of break time to accommodate an employee who wishes to express breast milk for the employee’s infant child. When an employee uses a regular rest break for that purpose, the employee must be paid for the break time. If an employee needs to take longer or additional breaks to express breast milk, the employer is not required to pay for the extra time.

Employers must make an effort to provide a private place (other than a toilet stall) that is reasonably near the employee’s work area for the employee to use while expressing breast milk.

Meal and Break Reimbursement Assistance

An employer that fails to provide meal and rest breaks to their employees face potential litigation. Retaliation against an employee who complains about an employer’s failure to provide proper accommodation can be the basis for a civil lawsuit. In addition to meal and break laws The Haeggquist and Eck Firm can also help with failure to reimburse expenses,  employment discrimination, and other employment related issues.  The Haeggquist and Eck Firm assists employees when their rights to breaks are violated and provide all California employees with free case evaluations. Call (949) 724-9200 to obtain your free consultation today.