California Meal Break & Rest Break Law (2018) – Quick Calculator + Charts

california meal break law, california rest break law

Under California meal break law (which is much more generous to employees than federal labor law), if you are a non-exempt worker, you are entitled to a 30-minute meal break if you work more than 5 hours in a workday.  You are also entitled to a 10-minute rest breaks for every 4 hours you work (or “major fraction” thereof). If your boss doesn’t comply with break law requirements, they are required to pay you one extra hour of regular pay for each day on which a meal break violation occurred, and another extra hour of regular pay for each day on which a rest break violation occurred.

Meal Break & Rest Break Calculator

This meal break and rest break calculator will tell you how many meal and/or rest breaks you are entitled to under California labor law.

Start of Your Shift (e.g., "9:00 am"): End of Your Shift (e.g., "5:00 pm"):
(The page will refresh after you press "calculate". Scroll down to see results in blue text.)


California Rest Break Law Chart

Hours on the Clock Rest Breaks
0 – 3:29 hrs 0
3:30 – 6 hrs 1
6:01 – 10 hrs 2
10:01 – 14 hrs 3
14:01 – 18 hrs 4
18:01 – 22 hrs 5

California Rest Break Requirements

  • Your boss must give you a rest break of at least 10 consecutive minutes that are uninterrupted.
  • Rest breaks must be paid.
  • If you work at least 3.5 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.
  • Rest breaks must to the extent possible be in the middle of each work period. If you work 8 hours or so, you should have a separate rest break both before and after your meal break.
  • Your boss may not require you to remain on work premises during your rest breaks.
  • You cannot be required to work during any required rest breaks. [Cal. Lab. C. 226.7]. BUT, you are free to skip your rest breaks provided your boss isn’t encouraging or forcing you to.

California Meal Break Law Chart

Hours on the Clock Meal Breaks
0 – 5 hrs 0
5:01 – 10 hrs 1
10:01 – 15 hrs 2
15:01 – 20 hrs 3
20:01 – 4

California Meal Break Law Requirements

  • If you work over 5 hours in a day, you are entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes that must start before the end of the fifth hour of your shift. BUT, you can agree with your boss to waive this meal period provided you do not work more than 6 hours in the workday. You can also agree with your boss to an on-duty meal break which counts as time worked and is paid.
  • If you work over 10 hours in a day, you are entitled to a second meal break of at least 30 minutes that must start before the end of the tenth hour of your shift. You can agree with your boss to waive the second meal break if you do not work more than 12 hours and you did not waive your first meal break.
  • You must be allowed to take your meal break off work premises and spend your break how you wish, since it is off the clock.
  • You cannot be required to work during any required meal break. [Cal. Lab. C. 512].
  • As of 2012, your boss has an affirmative obligation to ensure that breaks are made available to you but the actual taking of meal breaks is left to the employee. In other words, you are responsible for “breaking” yourself.

Note, rest breaks and meal breaks are supposed to be separate, they should not be combined. Your boss cannot give you a single 1-hour break and say that that counts as all of your meal breaks and rest breaks.

Keep in mind, there are many exceptions to the above for certain industries, such as the construction, healthcare, group home, motion picture, manufacturing, and baking industries.

Can I Sue My Employer for Violating California Meal Break and Rest Break Law?

Yes you can, and you should. If your employer is denying you meal breaks and rest breaks, you would be entitled to receive a penalty of 1 hour wages per day you were denied any rest breaks, and an additional penalty of 1 hour wages per day you were denied any meal breaks (for a maximum penalty of up to 2 hours wages per day). We can help you file a California labor board complaint. Give us a call at (213) 992-3299. Note, your claims are subject to strict filing deadlines. For meal and rest break violations, the filing deadline is usually considered to be 3 years thanks to a recent California Supreme Court decision. [Murphy v Kenneth Cole Productions, 40 Cal.4th 1094 (2007)], but in certain cases, a 1 year filing deadline could apply.

I Am an Exempt Salaried Worker, Can I Still Sue My Employer?

The correct answer is “it depends”. There are many kinds of exemptions under California labor laws. If you are a supervisor, you may fall under the supervisor exemption, otherwise known as the executive exemption. But that exemption has many requirements which your employer may have blown. Also, other kinds of exempt employees are still entitled to meal break and rest break rights. For instance, truck drivers are often considered exempt. However, under California labor laws, they must still receive their meal breaks and rest breaks. Another example are “inside salespeople” who sell products or services while physically stationed at the employer’s office. While normally considered “exempt”, they are still entitled to meal breaks and rest breaks. Again, consult a lawyer to see if your situation qualifies for breaks.

Call (213) 992-3299 and Get Your Labor Board Complaint Started Now

Feel free to give us a call at (213) 992-3299 if you want to discuss filing a labor board complaint. We have successfully obtained awards for our clients in over 97% of our trials and hearings — one of the best trial records in the State of California. Let us put our decades of legal experience to work for you.

Photo courtesy of cjmellows

2,237 Comments

  1. dani on November 17, 2018 at 11:30 am

    Okay 10 minute breaks are paid, if you were to go over that limit (say 11 minutes) are they allowed to take away those 11 minutes from your wages?

  2. Jessica on November 13, 2018 at 11:28 am

    So I have heard my employer has been sued in the past for break violations. Even during my first week of employment I was denied any breaks for a 5 hour shift. My boss was a bit hostile when I asked about getting my extra hour, but I did get it. I have been noticing now that for shifts 6 hours or more they rarely give us our 10s unless we ask and sometimes it is just not feasible because we are understaffed and too busy. Lunches are also given starting at the first 2-3 hour mark of a shift instead of in the middle, when we should be getting our first 10 minute break and we are forced to take a 45min lunch. Lunches are also given during the time when we would be getting our second 10 minute break sometimes, so we come back from lunch and only have an hour or two before we are scheduled to go home. They do not make time in the schedule for 10 minute breaks but they do schedule the 45 minute lunch periods even though rarely are they able to be taken on time. Is there any thing that can be done about it?

  3. What Is a Timesheet? | mojafarma on November 13, 2018 at 7:51 am

    […] such as New York City and Chicago, require businesses to provide a certain amount of sick leave. California requires employers to provide a 30-minute unpaid lunch break to employees who work more than five […]

  4. Mari on November 13, 2018 at 12:09 am

    Does CA labor law applies to the County employee?

  5. GARY WHITESCARVER JR on November 7, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    When are you legally allowed to leave employers grounds?
    Only when you clock out for lunch?
    Can you leave on all your breaks?

    • Eugene Lee on November 7, 2018 at 4:38 pm

      yes – otherwise, you are being denied your meal or rest break.

  6. Amanda on November 6, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    So my employee handbook only says managers will give breaks according to how busy the store is are they obligated to put how many breaks we get per shift or hours worked? Also I was told by managment I only get one 10 min break unless I go over 6 hrs I thought I was entitled to at least one rest break & one 30 min meal break are they correct or not abiding by C.A state laws

  7. Ross on November 2, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    Hi,
    A couple years ago I was hired by my employer with the title/position of “x”, as I work in a specialty field of service that others cannot perform. Another employee before I was hired also had same title/position of “x” but will leave, leaving only me as an “x” in my department.

    Just recently, the Union that was voted in signed a contract with the employer and I was shown my new increased union pay along with title same position of “x”.
    My boss commented I would excel in pay above the others a month ago because I was an “x” while others where in the “r” category.
    Apparently, others complained and my boss just recently claimed, “oh, we (the company) is going to have to change your title to “y” as “x” actually does not exist in my department but don’t worry, you’ll still get your money offered you (but no clarification of which new pay range, r or x?)
    The boss asked me to voluntarily sign a new job description form agreeing to change my job title/position to “y” which I did not as of yet.

    Can they do this legally?

    As I do not want to go by just a verbal agreement from my manager plus I realize the salary range for “x” is much higher, as where “y” has capped out below my current pay and what’s to say later, someone comes along and says we’ll have to adjust your pay since your category of “y” exceeds your pay or occurs after this union contract expires.

    • Robyn on November 6, 2018 at 9:23 am

      Contact the union representative as their job is to fight for your job. A union worker I would urge you not to sign anything without taking to your union first as is your legal right once a union begins representing you.

  8. Irvine on October 31, 2018 at 7:50 am

    I work in outdoor construction constantly under the scorching sun. No shade provided for our non existing breaks and lunch. I start from 6am-230pm, most days (4 of 5) im working 1+ hrs ot.
    I dont get lunch or breaks. And when i do get lunch i get forced to have it at 1230pm sometimes being rushed or interrupted. (Still no breaks) Ongoing issue for four months and counting. Theres even times i work 13hr shifts NO lunch NO breaks. And when the issue is addressed the formans give you the run around. First month of working here the forman was telling the HR we were taking breaks and lunch when it was completely false. I finally addressed the issue but they still insisted it was because we dont have enough time in the day for breaks. Need help. Not a union job. Do i have a case?

  9. Xjjx on October 26, 2018 at 10:43 pm

    I have a quick fast and easy question
    So I usually work 2-8 which is 6 hours which here it says over 6 hours is 2 breaks but does the 30 minute lunch count. It says if you work but what does work mean does that include the lunch because I put in the start time and end time and I got from 2:00-8:01 which is 6 hour 1 minute it says 2 breaks and 1 lunch of 30 minute but does hours worked include

    Because this calculator shows if I put 2:00 to 8:01 it says that is 6 hours and 1 minute
    But I had a 30 minute lunch at 6:30-7:00.
    So I worked on clock to be paid for 5 and a half and also a minute so why does this say 2 breaks

  10. Robert on October 25, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Can hourly employees that work 8 hours in a day skip a 1 hour lunch break (allowed by the company) and go home 1 hour early but get paid for 8 hours?Maybe even skip 1 lunch and 1 break (of 2 allowed 15 min breaks) and go home after working 7.75 hours?

  11. Cathleen Hlatkey on October 25, 2018 at 9:56 am

    I can not understand why taking a lunch is the Law. It is tedious and too political. Why do hourly employees get strict rules and salary employees get to do whatever the hell they want?
    Hourly employees get the shaft every time and get treated like crap. I am going through this now.
    I wish things were like 30 years ago. Laws on everything this day are getting so ridiculous.

    • Rob Schoenenberger on October 25, 2018 at 4:19 pm

      Do you work for Union Pacific Railroad?

  12. Robert on October 22, 2018 at 12:28 pm

    Timing at 4:59 hours in doesn’t work for some of our employees in our preschool/child care business. Do we file for an exception? Already have an exception for our industry? Document why it doesn’t work and have written agreement with employees for a later lunch? What do we do?

  13. Trevor on October 17, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    I have a question that I am not seeing asked on the thread. My company is interpreting the lunch laws in a manner I find odd. They are requiring employees to take a 30 minute rest period for each 5 hour period worked regardless of total hours worked. So for example, if I came in at 9 AM and clocked out for lunch at 11 am, when I return back at 11:30 am I’ve worked 2 hours. They would then require us to clock out no later than 4:30PM for another lunch to avoid hitting a contiguous 5 hours (11:30 am – 4:30 pm = 5 hours). In this example, I’ve only worked a total amount of 7 hours for the day and am being forced to stay at work an additional 30 minutes to take a 2nd meal break so that I can return and complete my last hour for my full 8 hours. Is this interpretation by the company correct? It is actually a burden for someone like me who works 9 hours quite often because it forces me to wait until at least the 4 hour mark in the day to take a lunch so that I do not have to clock out for a 2nd one later. I am a non-exempt employee and it is driving me crazy that the rules are being enforced like this and want to know if this is actually the law.

    • John F on October 25, 2018 at 9:02 pm

      In the beginning of your statement, you mentioned you are getting a second lunch break but then at the end, you mentioned they are trying to avoid giving you a 2nd lunch break? So do you get one or two lunch breaks?

      I am not a lawyer but base on the information you presented, I believe, the company is not doing anything wrong. Maybe odd but nothing wrong. Instead of giving you an hour lunch in the middle of your shift, they give you two 30-minute lunches. They are probably avoiding a continuous 5 hours not to be sneaky, but rather so you are more awake and productive. Like you said, your total hours worked is still no more than 8 hours for the day. As long as they pay you for overtime if you pass more than an hour at the end of the shift.

      If they were straight-forward with employees from the beginning that this is how they schedule their day then they have done nothing unethical. Now it is up to you if you like to stay with the company with this type of shift schedule.

      NOW, if they only gave you one 30-minute lunch you definitely have to clock out at 5:30 pm. Otherwise, you are owed overtime pay. If this was the case, they probably won’t have you go to lunch as early as 11 am.

  14. Jerry on October 17, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    I work at a school and I’m contracted to work a 6 hour day. It ends up being a 7 hour day because they give us an hour lunch instead of 30 minutes. I went in to tell them that I wanted a 30 minute lunch or pay me for the extra half an hour if you want me here all day. They said no to the 30 minute lunch. Is this legal for them to give me an hour lunch on a 6 hour work day?

    • John F on October 25, 2018 at 9:09 pm

      Quick answer, YES. The law only requires a minimum one 30-minute meal break for any work between 5-10 hour shift. There is no law on maximum lunch break. If they stated this from the beginning and you are getting paid the actual 6 hours of work you did then they have done nothing wrong. You accepted the job. It is up to you to handle the schedule or get a different job.

      I am not a lawyer. This is my interpretation of the law as an HR person.

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