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Meal and Rest Breaks

California Meal Break Law

In California, employees who work more than five hours in a single workday are entitled to a meal period of at least thirty minutes. Employees are also entitled to a second meal period of at least thirty minutes if they work more than ten hours in a single workday. California enforces strict meal break regulations that employers must abide by.

Employees must be provided with “duty-free” meal periods in which they should be free to do whatever they please, free of interruption. This includes being allowed to leave the workplace if they desire

California Meal Break Rules

The first meal break must take place before the sixth hour of work begins. Employers are obligated to take this meal break very seriously and ensure compliance. Compliance with the law includes taking several steps such as:

  • Relieving the employee of all work-related responsibilities
  • Ensuring that the employee lets go of control of his or her work-related activities during that period
  • Refraining from discouraging employees to take a meal break
  • Allowing employees ample opportunity to take an uninterrupted meal break and
  • Allowing the employee to leave the workplace during the break period if they desire.

If these conditions aren’t met, the employer must compensate the employee for the meal break.

Further California Meal Break Requirements

The second meal break must take place before the end of the employee’s 10th hour of work.

The employee has the option of waiving a second meal break in mutual agreement with the employer only if:

  • The employee works less than 12 hours cumulatively on the day in question
  • Both the employer and employee consent to waive the second meal break
  • The employee took the first meal break uninterrupted and
  • The employee is compensated for that waiver.

Meal Breaks While Working

Paid on-shift meal breaks are permitted under California law, but only in very limited circumstances. Certain requirements must be met and a contract must be signed by both the employer and the employee for paid on-duty meal breaks. These requirements include:

  • The work being performed by the employee cannot be relieved
  • Both the employer and employee agree ahead of time in writing
  • The meal break must be compensated and
  • The employee has the right to withdraw consent in writing at any time.

California’s 10-Minute Break Requirements

Employers must authorize and permit 10-minute breaks for each four-hour block worked by a non-exempt employee. An employee who works between 3.5 to 6 hours is entitled to one 10-minute break, and those who work between 6 to 10 hours are entitled to two 10-minute breaks.

Employers must compensate employees for each 10-minute break. However, employers are under no obligation to schedule these breaks at specific times. California suggests allowing 10-minute breaks during the middle of each four-hour period of work.

Employer’s Legal Peril

Employers that fail to give adequate break time to their employees face serious consequences in California. Courts have opened employers up to major penalties even if the meal and rest breaks were unintentionally impeded. Here are a few examples of past court findings.

Backpay For Each Meal Break

California courts have ruled that employees are owed one hour of wages for every meal and rest period missed. Employees are allowed to claim this as backpay for a three-year rolling period.

One Hour Of Pay For Missed 10-minute Breaks

An employee is entitled to one hour worth of wages for every 10-minute break disallowed by the employer. Again, this compensation is valid for a three-year period.

Potential Double Compensation

Employees who miss both a meal break and a 10-minute rest break may be owed two hours worth of wages per violation. An experienced wage and hour attorney can help you fight for everything that you’re owed.

Contact a Skilled Employment Lawyer

Not receiving the proper meal and rest breaks at work is unjust and can negatively affect your productivity. If your employer has denied you the proper meal and rest breaks during work, reach out to the employment lawyers at West Coast Employment Lawyers. Our experienced team will help and guide you through every step of your case. We will fight for your justice and help you obtain maximum compensation.

Contact us today for a free consultation. We handle our cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that you only pay us if we get compensation for you. You can reach our legal team 24 hours a day by calling 213-927-3700 or emailing [email protected].

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