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California Meal and Rest Break Laws

California labor law requires employers to provide meal breaks and rest breaks. These are not included in federal wage and hour laws. Nonetheless, they are important for workers, as being hungry and tired negatively affects productivity and interactions with coworkers and customers. Violating meal/rest provisions of California employment law can result in penalties such as fines and, in severe cases, criminal charges. Continue reading to learn more about employee rights under state law.

What Are California Meal Break and Rest Break Laws?

In general, California labor law grants employees a broader range of rights. These include anti-discrimination laws, medical leave benefits, and break requirements. Your employer must abide by the following laws:

California Meal Break Laws: California wage and hour law entitles non-exempt employees to a 30-minute meal break/lunch break if they work more than 5 hours a day. This meal break must be provided within the first 5 hours of work, while an employee can decline a meal break if their shift is 6 hours long or less. While on break, an employee is relieved of work duties and is free to leave the premises. If an employee’s workday is more than 10 hours, they are entitled to a second meal break.

Violating this law can be costly. If your employer doesn’t provide a meal break, you are entitled to be paid for the missed break plus one hour of regular pay. Each day a meal break is missed is considered a separate violation.

California Rest Break Laws: You are entitled to a 10-minute paid break or rest period for every 4 hours you work. This means if you work a full 8-hour shift, the law entitles you to 2 paid 10-minute rest periods, plus an additional 30-minute unpaid meal break. Rest periods are counted as time worked and must be as close to the middle of the employee’s work period as possible. If you work less than 3½ hours a day, a paid break is not required.

If your employer violated these rules, they may face a legal penalty of one hour of pay for each day you’re denied a break. Proving an employer violated rest period laws can be challenging. This is because the law only requires the break be made available. However, employees aren’t legally required to use their allotted break time. As rest break violations can be difficult to prove, it’s best to work with a wage and hour attorney for help building your case.

Which Employees Do California Meal and Rest Break Laws Apply To?

Only non-exempt employees are covered under these laws. If you are legally classified as an independent contractor, these regulations don’t apply. Unionized employees in certain industries are also not covered. For example, those who work in construction, security, commercial driving, electrical or gas, or the motion picture industry may receive meal breaks on a schedule determined by a collective bargaining agreement.

Can You Sue an Employer for Not Allowing Rest or Meal Breaks?

If you’ve been denied a required break, the California Labor Code allows you to sue your employer. However, an employer is not responsible if you voluntarily opt to work during a designated meal or rest break. But they’re prohibited from requiring their workers to be “on-call” at these times. Meal/rest break violations are often the subject of wage and hour class-action lawsuits. In addition to restitution, employers that violate state law may also be required to pay hefty fines.

Contact Lawyers for Justice, PC

Contact us if you believe your employer has violated your rights under California meal and rest break laws. By working with an employment law attorney, your claim will be carefully assessed. Our legal team in Glendale is committed to helping clients in Los Angeles County and the State of California get as much compensation for their losses as possible. To speak to a California labor law attorney and receive a free case evaluation, call 818-587-8423 today!