California Meal and Rest Break Laws

Under California break laws, non-exempt employees have a right to rest and meal breaks. The former refers to a 30-minute unpaid, off-duty break if your work entails working for over five hours per day while the latter is a 10-minute break after working continuously for four hours. If your employer doesn’t follow this law, they must pay one additional hour of regular pay for every day that you work without taking the breaks.

Below are more details about the break laws in California.

  1. Meal Breaks

Your employer is under obligation to give you a 10-minute meal break after the end of your fifth hour of work.

Your employer is considered to have fulfilled their part if they:

  • Relieve you of all your duties
  • Surrender control over your activities
  • Give you a reasonable opportunity to have an uninterrupted 30-minute break
  • Desist from discouraging you from taking your break

Note, though that if your typical day at work lasts six hours, your employer can do away with the break on condition that there is a mutual consent between both of you (Employer and employee.) If on the other hand, your workday lasts more ten hours, he or she must provide a second meal break lasting no less than 30 minutes, at the end of your tenth hour of work.

  1. Rest Break

If your workday lasts for a minimum of 3.5 hours, your boss must provide you with uninterrupted rest periods at the rate of 10 minutes for every 4 hours you work, or a Major Fraction thereof. According to the law, a Major Fraction is any duration that exceeds two hours.

Unlike meal breaks, rest breaks should include the following:

  • Rest breaks are paid
  • Your employer can request you to remain within the premises
  • Your boss should relieve you of your duties during rest breaks; However, under Cal. Lab. C. 226.7, you have the freedom to continue working provided your employer isn’t compelling you to do so.

Circumstances Necessitating On-Duty Meal Breaks

For your on-duty meal period to be legal, the nature of your job should be such that it is impossible to relieve you of all duty, both you and your boss must make a written agreement stating the same, and you have to be paid for the duration. You can revoke the agreement at any given time, except for under Wage Order 14 (which refers to Agricultural jobs).

When to File a Claim

If your boss is in any way infringing on your rights as stipulated in the break laws above, contact an attorney immediately because the filing deadline for rest and meal break violations varies. In some cases, the filing deadline is three years, while in others a one-year period is applicable.