• Employee Meal Periods and Rest Breaks
  • May 16, 2011 | Author: Timothy Bowles
  • Law Firm: Law Offices of Timothy Bowles, P.C. - Pasadena Office
  • California hourly workers are entitled to certain rest and meal breaks depending on how many hours they work in a given day.  The basic rules: employers must provide an unpaid off-duty meal period at least 30 minutes long for every 5 hours in a workday, and 10 minute paid breaks for every 4 hours worked.  Among the others:

    Meal Breaks

    • While employees who work over 5 hours in a day must be provided - and must take advantage of — an unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes, workers can waive their meal period as long as they do not work more than 6 hours in the workday.  Under certain conditions, workers can also agree in writing to have their meal while on-duty but must be paid in full for that time;
    • Employees who work for more than 10 hours in a day are entitled to a second unpaid off-duty meal break of at least 30 minutes. Employees can choose to forgo their second meal break as long as they do not work more than 12 hours and received the first meal period;
    • Employees must be free to take their meal breaks off company premises if they so choose; and
    • Employees cannot be required to work during any such required meal period.

    Rest Breaks

    • Employees who work at least 3.5 hours in a day are entitled to a rest break;
    • Rest break must be for at least 10 consecutive minutes for each 4 hours worked;
    • Whenever possible, rest breaks should in the middle of each work period;
    • Rest breaks must be paid;
    • Employees can be required to take their rest break on company premises;
    • Employees cannot be required to work during any required rest break;  and
    • Employees can choose to skip their rest break provided as long as their supervisors or managers do not pressure them to do so.

    There are some exceptions to these laws for particular California industries, including healthcare, motion picture, and manufacturing.

    Employer penalty for non-compliance is an extra hour of regular pay for each violation.

    For answers to particular situations, contact a California employment law expert. See also: “How to Avoid Costly Penalties for Missed Meal Breaks.”