Meal and Rest Breaks

Under California law, non-exempt employees are entitled to one unpaid 30-minute meal break, and two paid 10-minute rest breaks, during a typical 8-hour shift. Employees must receive their off-duty meal breaks before the end of the fifth hour of work. Employees must receive 10-minute off-duty rest breaks for every four hours worked (or major fraction of four hours), and the rest breaks should be in the middle of a work period “insofar as practicable.” 

Meal Break Laws in California

Employees are protected by meal break laws in California.  California employees who work over 5 hours in a day are entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes that must start before the end of the fifth hour of their shift. However, an employee who works less than 6 hours in a day can agree to waive his or her meal break. In certain situations, an employee can agree to an “on-duty” meal break where he or she continues to work during the meal break, but is paid for the time. An on-duty meal break agreement must be in writing and it must inform the employee of the right to revoke the agreement at any time.

If an employee works over 10 hours in a day, he or she is entitled to a second meal break of at least 30 minutes that must start before the end of the tenth hour of the shift. Again, the employee can agree to waive the second meal break, but only if the employee does not work more than 12 hours and did not waive his or her first meal break.

Employers must provide employees with off-duty meal breaks. “The employer satisfies this obligation if it relieves its employees of all duty, relinquishes control over their activities and permits them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break, and does not impede or discourage them from doing so. Brinker Rest. Corp. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal. 4th 1004, 1040 (2012).

Rest Break Laws in California

Employees are also protected under rest break laws in California.  California employees who work more than 3 ½ hours in a day are entitled to a 10-minute off-duty rest break. Rest breaks are counted as hours worked and must be paid.

If you work at least 3 ½ 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.

To the extent possible rest breaks must be in the middle of each work period. For example if you work an eight-hour shift, you should have a separate rest break both two hours before and two hours after your meal break.

Like meal breaks, rest breaks are off-duty time. “During rest periods employers must relieve employees of all duties and relinquish control over how employees spend their time.” Augustus v. ABM Sec. Servs., Inc., 2 Cal. 5th 257, 269 (2016)

If you are being denied your proper meal or rest breaks in California contact the employment lawyers at Hunter Pyle Law.  We have litigated numerous individual and class action lawsuits regarding meal periods and rest breaks, contact us today for a confidential initial intake.