California Meal and Rest Breaks
You already know that receiving proper payment for your work is fundamental in an employment relationship. But what else is essential in most employment relationships in California? The right to meal and rest breaks. CA meal and rest break laws provide more generous breaks than what workers receive under federal law and several state laws. We want to review with you what type of downtime you should receive during your workday, and we can fight for you if your employer has not respected your rights. At Bibiyan Law Group, P.C., our experienced attorneys focus 100% on employment law, and we help employees recover everything their employers owe them.
What Are My Rights?
In California, meal and rest breaks are essential parts of each workday. The California meal and rest break law is particular about when your employer should grant these breaks and how long they should be. Read on for more information about your right to each type of break.
Your Right to Meal Breaks
In general, you should receive a 30-minute, unpaid meal break if you work more than five hours in a workday. And if you work more than 10 hours in a day, you should receive two 30-minute meal breaks.
Is an employer ever required to pay you during a meal break?
During a meal break, your employer must relieve you of all your duties and allow you to leave the worksite if you wish. If you are not allowed to leave your workplace during your meal break, or if you have to fulfill work obligations while taking your meal break, your employer has to pay you for that time. But don’t be quick to accept a boss’s requirement that you perform work during a paid meal period. Paid, on-duty meal breaks are only allowed if the nature of your job requires on-duty breaks and you have agreed to on-duty breaks in writing.
Can you waive a meal break?
You might have your reasons for skipping a meal break. Maybe you prefer an uninterrupted day, or perhaps you want your shift to end sooner. Whatever your reason, you can waive a meal break under the following circumstances:
- You can waive your only meal period if your workday is no longer than six hours, and
- You can waive your second meal period if you do not work more than 12 hours in a workday.
You and your employer must agree to your meal break waiver.
Are there exceptions to the meal break requirements?
While it applies to many, California’s general meal break law does not apply to everyone in the same way. For instance, employees in the motion picture industry are not entitled to meal breaks until they have worked at least six hours in a workday.
Your Right to Rest Periods
Lunchtime is not the only time you should have to relax during a workday. In addition to unpaid meal breaks, state law requires employers to provide their employees with paid, ten-minute rest periods for every four hours of work or for every major fraction of four hours worked. However, your employer does not have to provide you with a break if your entire shift is less than 3.5 hours.
Depending on your physical needs and line of work, you might be entitled to more or fewer breaks. Individuals who work in 24-hour residential care facilities or facilities that engage in continuous operations might have limited rest periods. And employees who are lactating parents or who are performers engaging in strenuous activities could have the right to additional rest breaks.
What Happens If I Don’t Receive My Break?
Denying an employee a break is wage theft, and it is a grave offense. You can hold your employer accountable for its failure to provide breaks by filing a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Employers that unlawfully deny breaks must pay affected employees one hour of pay for each workday that did not include the proper amount of breaks. Speak to a knowledgeable employment attorney about the best tactic for recovering the damages you deserve when your employer does not let you rest.
Bibiyan Law Group Can Help
If California’s meal and rest break laws are not being honored in your workplace, talk to Bibiyan Law Group. We are award-winning employment attorneys dedicated to aggressively protecting California workers from the unlawful actions of their employers. We recover millions for mistreated employees every year, and we want to make sure you receive every benefit you deserve for your hard work. You can call us at 323-741-4479 or contact us online for help.