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 uninterrupted, duty-free meal break if you work more than 5 hours in a workday.  You are also entitled to a 10-minute uninterrupted, duty-free 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 ClockRest Breaks
0 – 3:29 hrs0
3:30 – 6 hrs1
6:01 – 10 hrs2
10:01 – 14 hrs3
14:01 – 18 hrs4
18:01 – 22 hrs5

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 ClockMeal Breaks
0 – 5 hrs0
5:01 – 10 hrs1
10:01 – 15 hrs2
15:01 – 20 hrs3
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

2,658 Comments

  1. SS on April 5, 2020 at 12:21 pm

    Can I be required to take an hour-long meal break because that’s how my manager has scheduled the work flow?

  2. Will on April 1, 2020 at 7:05 pm

    If my shift starts at 7AM, I take a 1 hour lunch break and my shift ends at 3:30 how many hours should I be paid for?

    • Joshua Petrie on April 6, 2020 at 9:36 am

      Here’s the formula: End time – Start time – lunch time

      Or: Work day – lunch

      (These should both be equal)

      7 to 3:30 is 8.5 hours minus 1 hour lunch = 7.5 hours of pay

  3. Stephanie on March 19, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    Need a little clarification. I work 8am to 5pm with an hour lunch at 1pm on Monday’s and Thursdays and 12pm Tuesdays and Thursdays. Rarely get to take a 10 minute break and majority of the year I have worked for this dental office I have not taken my 10 minute break. So how many violations am I looking at? What exactly is the dentist in violation of? I am an hourly wage worker.

    • Abbie on March 28, 2020 at 11:06 pm

      My boss is having me work 12 hour days and told me i have to take 2 full hour lunches but i asked if i could take one and she told me no because of the law… but this website is saying otherwise how should i approach my boss?

      • Joshua Petrie on March 29, 2020 at 11:11 pm

        Your first meal is due by the end of your 5th hour, before the 6th hour. So, for example, if you clocked in at 6am your meal is due by 11am. You’re taking an hour lunch, so you’d come back by 12.

        Your second meal is due by before the end of your 10th hour worked. So, in the 6–11am, back at 12 example, your next meal is due by 5pm. But if you did not waive your first meal, you can waive this meal so long as you don’t work past 7pm, as I read it.

        According to this website, “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.”

        Here is the Department of Labor Standards’ FAQ on meal breaks and waivers: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_MealPeriods.htm

        Perhaps you can bring this government website to your boss and ask how to secure the meal waiver.

        I hope this helps!

  4. Richard on March 16, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    Hi, my husband worked 8 hour shifts as a night auditor at a hotel. He was handed a lunch waiver form that he was told to sign in order to accept employment. My husband should have been offered a lunch break as he works more than the six required for the waiver. He was never talked to about his options and he often complained about the lack of employees. He worked alone for his whole shift and did not take a lunch during his shift. He was paid for his time there but was working 8 hours with no lunch. He signed a waiver but was not aware that he could decline the waiver. He always informed his boss that he was not taking his lunches but his employer said nothing.

    • Brian W on March 18, 2020 at 2:04 pm

      If he is non-exempt (not a salaried supervisor) he is entitled to a meal period break. Employer must let him leave the premise, too, since he is not on the clock.Waivers do not suffice. It’s his right. Now the employer is entitled to pay him a meal period violation pay at his normal rate. The rate increases as more violations occur. I am an employer, not a lawyer, and while I believe this information to be true based on my understanding of CA labor law, he should double check this website or consult an attorney for direction if he cannot verify this information.

    • Joshua Petrie on March 29, 2020 at 11:15 pm

      Sounds like he is owed an “on duty” meal period per night shift for up to the previous 3 years of employment. I’d try to get in contact with someone from this site to see if you want to pursue a labor complaint.

      “An ‘on duty’ meal period shall be permitted only when the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all duty and when by written agreement between the employer and employee an on-the-job paid meal period is agreed to. The written agreement must state that the employee may, in writing, revoke the agreement at any time. IWC Orders 1 -15, Section 11, Order 16, Section 10. […] Some examples of jobs that fit this category are a sole worker in a coffee kiosk, a sole worker in an all-night convenience store, and a security guard stationed alone at a remote site.”

      https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_MealPeriods.htm

  5. Luis L on March 16, 2020 at 10:17 am

    My mother works part-time at a daycare center. When there are only a few kids, her employer makes her take an unpaid “lunch” break 1.5-2 hours into her shift. Today she was forced to take a 1 hour break after only working one hour. Depending on whether kids show up or not, she either works the remainder of the shift (total 4-8 hours) or she is sent home. Is this legal?

    • Joshua Petrie on March 29, 2020 at 11:19 pm

      Look in to “reporting pay” with the DLSE: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_ReportingTimePay.htm

      Basically, the least an employer can pay an employee for “reporting” to work (there’s various definitions at the URL above) is two hours.

      “Each workday an employee is required to report to work, but is […] furnished with less than half of [their] usual or scheduled day’s work, [they] must be paid […] in no event for less than two hours nor more than four hours, at his or her regular rate of pay.”

  6. H. Valencia on March 12, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    I work in a CA store Every day I work I’m scheduled from 3:30pm- 9:30 or 9:45pm sometimes we don’t even leave the store until 10:00. I’m only given 1 ten minute break and a 30 minute unpaid lunch. There isn’t always another associate later in the day to cover breaks so I am sent to my 30 minute break an hour or two after my shift started and then given my one ten minute break way later in my shift. They do this to avoid being penalized for taking an in store paid 30 minute break. Is this legal?

    • Joshua Petrie on March 15, 2020 at 7:32 pm

      I’m not sure what you mean by “in store paid 30 minute break,” but the rest of it sounds right. When you work 5–6 hours, you are due (but can agree to waive) a 30 minute unpaid break. As I understand it, there should be no meal penalty, so long as your work does not exceed 6 hours.

  7. Roy on March 11, 2020 at 9:53 am

    Hello, I work at a traveling bus company, since I started I have never had any 10 mins paid breaks, also the afternoon shift gets in at 12pm and are scheduled to go to lunch at 1pm which is 1 hr into our work day. Leaving us with 8 hours ahead of us with no breaks. I’ve worked with the company for about 8 years, they are based out of Texas. The other thing this past June 2019, the company was purchased by someone else, how would this work in regards of 3 years back?
    Thank you

  8. Catherine on March 10, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    My husband and I both worked for a golf course maintenance company and we were required to combine our meal and rest breaks into one hour. Is this legal?

    • Eugene Lee on March 10, 2020 at 3:50 pm

      No

      • Catherine on March 10, 2020 at 4:08 pm

        How can we proceed?

        • Eugene Lee on March 13, 2020 at 9:39 pm

          Hi Catherine, You can give us a call at 213-992-3299 and we can get you started.

  9. Angelo lozano on March 8, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Hi I work in construction and I never knew about meal and break laws and I been working in construction over 1p yrs and never have I ever received a 2nd lunch meal break after 10 hrs worked.how can I go about this is it worth to sue?cause noone there in the company have ever gotten our 2nd meal break

    • Eugene Lee on March 8, 2020 at 9:44 am

      You need to file a wage claim. You can give us a call at 213-992-3299 M-F 9 am to 5 pm. Someone can assist you.

  10. Gage Roark on March 5, 2020 at 11:42 am

    I work for a Dance Studio as a dance instructor. Does the break time apply for those kind of employees? I know that area can be a little iffy

    • Eugene Lee on March 8, 2020 at 9:48 am

      If you are a dance instructor at a dance studio, you are most likely an employee under the current ABC test (AB5). As such, you are entitled to meal and rest breaks according to California labor laws.

  11. Isabel Torres on March 4, 2020 at 4:14 pm

    Is it legal for my employer to deduct my break time from my overtime? Exp. I worked 10 hrs on a day but when I got paid they paid me for 1.72 as overtime when I question my payroll dept. they said I didn’t get pay for the 2 hrs due to my breaks. Since I took my break in the morning and in the afternoon those 20 min are not consider “working hours” is this correct?

    • Eugene Lee on March 8, 2020 at 9:50 am

      Ten minute rest breaks must be paid and taken on the clock. It sounds like your employer is illegally deducting your two 10-minute rest breaks.

  12. Stephen Holguín on March 4, 2020 at 2:24 pm

    I work for “the” coffee company on every corner as an opener. My shifts begin at 5am and end at 1pm. The duty roster for the day shows “scheduled” lunches for each staff for the day, but the managers make us take them early so we are back on the floor by 7am for “peak” business. Is it legal for them to have me take my lunches 1 to 2 hours into my shift and then work 6-7 hours after my lunch break?

  13. Rose F. on March 1, 2020 at 12:08 am

    I work at a chain salon and get paid hourly. I was denied a mealtime break because I was only scheduled to work a 6 hour shift and was only allowed a 10 min ‘break’. I want to know if I have any grounds to file a complaint. Or is this one of those cases where it’s allowed? I did not sign any waiver, as I have for previous employers.

    • Joshua Petrie on March 1, 2020 at 6:06 pm

      The DLSE* says it needs to be “mutual consent of both the employer and employee”.

      Sounds like it wasn’t mutual, so I’d say yes.

      * https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_MealPeriods.htm

      • Jeanie Lisbon on March 6, 2020 at 3:23 pm

        Say an non exempt employee with a regular 8am – 5pm shift, and the employee waives their 1 hour meal break and the employer agrees, would this mean the employee worked 9 hours. If so, does the employer need to pay the employee for 9 hours or 8 hours?

        • Eugene Lee on March 8, 2020 at 9:46 am

          By law, meal breaks are unpaid (unless the employer decides to make it paid). Since meal breaks are unpaid and taken off the clock, that means the employee worked 8 hours, not 9 hours.

        • Joshua Petrie on March 14, 2020 at 9:27 am

          I don’t see anywhere that allows a meal break to be waived (outside of a 6 hour shift). By 1 pm (the 5th hour) you are due a meal break, if it’s not taken you are owed a meal penalty (1 extra hour of pay). Also, if you didn’t break for a meal, then you are still on the clock, so you should expect 9 hours of pay+1 “hour” meal penalty pay.

  14. Isreal Gonzales on February 29, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    My wife works fir a company for the last 20 years plus and she always take her lunch past the fifth hour. She didn’t know if the law – is something she should consider to take company to court and what would be the possible return?

    • Joshua Petrie on March 1, 2020 at 6:09 pm

      I don’t know what you stand to get returned, but I saw Eugene say that you can only sue for the previous 3 (or maybe 4) years elsewhere in this comment section:

      “The statute of limitations for breaks is 3 years per a case called Murphy v Kenneth Cole. Meaning you can only sue for violations going back up to 3 years. If your attorney files your claim in civil court, they can assert a claim for unfair business competition which increases the statute of limitations to 4 years.” — Eugene Lee

  15. Jeanette on February 28, 2020 at 12:41 pm

    My employer requires me to take a 30min unpaid mealbbreak befor the end of my 5th hour sometimes im only scheduled ro woek 5.5 hours up to 8.5 hours. I woek in a veey busy bowling alley , bar and kitchen. We are always short staffed and rarely get to start our 30 min break on time. I prefer to work thru my break. If I choose to waive my 30min break, is there a waiver that I can sign and keep it on file so it covers me and my employer from that poi t on ? My point is, if its one of those days I cant break on time because Im so busy cooking or bar tending etc., I will be covered and so will my employer.

    • Joshua Petrie on February 28, 2020 at 2:38 pm

      If you are scheduled for 6 hours or less you can waive your meal break. The DLSE* says it needs to be “mutual consent of both the employer and employee”, but I don’t think you need to sign anything necessarily, I could be wrong.

      If you are working past 5 hours and you’re scheduled for more than 6 hours, your employer would owe you a meal break penalty (basically an extra hour of pay) in that case.

      * https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_MealPeriods.htm

  16. Deborah on February 27, 2020 at 9:39 pm

    Hi I work two jobs at a school 4 days a week I work from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm and i don’t start my second job until 2:30 but once a week I work My first job 10:00 to 1:30 then I have to start the second job at 1:30 to 6:00 so on this day I work straight thru from 10:00 am to 6:00pm. Now for 4 years I have never taken a break or a lunch but this year they are saying it’s the law you have to take a unpaid 30 min lunch ! I fill out 2 time sheets because I have 2 different jobs now do I have to take a lunch break on the day that I work10 am to 6 pm?

  17. Dave on February 27, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    Can an employer deny meal breaks and elect to pay the penalty, or must the employee agree to this?

  18. sUSAN on February 26, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    I work 8 to 5; 1 hr lunch break. WHEN DO WE HAVE THE 2 BREAKS?
    Please respond today. Thank you

    • Eugene Lee on February 26, 2020 at 4:14 pm

      Lunch should start before 1 pm. One break should be before lunch and one break should be after lunch. Each break is supposed to be roughly in the middle of the work period. So roughly around 10:30 am and 3:30 pm.

  19. Daph Eliza on February 12, 2020 at 10:21 pm

    I just got a new job and work 12 to 6. I was just told I had to go on a lunch. But for 2 weeks I have not recieved a 10. Do I just get a 30 minute lunch then ? And no 10?

  20. Carlos on February 12, 2020 at 9:23 pm

    My work day starts at 5 AM and I was told to take my first 10 min break 17 minutes into my shift is that legal? Also I called in sick once and I was told to not come in to work for the next 3 days is that legal?

    • Leister on February 19, 2020 at 1:13 am

      Yo do construction don’t you?

    • Lisa on February 20, 2020 at 9:21 pm

      I work 8 hrs a day and my employer wants us to work a half hr over so they dont have to pay us lunch is that legal?

  21. Erick Sanchez on February 12, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    Hi, I work 6 hour shifts . I’m forced to take a 1 hour lunch break. I only need a 30 min lunch break but my boss says it’s slow so we’re written up if we take a 30 min lunch break.

  22. Suman on February 10, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    I AM WORKING 3PM TO 11.30PM, IF I TAKE MY LUNCH BREAK AT 5.30PM DO I HAVE TO TAKE ANOTHER LUNCH Break BEFORE 11.30PM

    • Joshua Petrie on February 11, 2020 at 12:36 pm

      My understanding: No, because you can work up 6 hours (after any 30 minute break) if that finishes your shift (and you didn’t already waive a meal break).

      “A second meal period of not less than thirty minutes is required if an employee works more than ten hours per day, except that if the total hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and employee only if the first meal period was not waived.”

      “…a subsequent meal period must be called not later than six hours after the termination of the preceding meal period.” — https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_MealPeriods.htm

    • Shane on February 27, 2020 at 3:51 pm

      You call it a “right” and say we are “entitled” to a 30 minute meal break. If that’s the case, why can’t we waive that right? By forcing my employer to do this you are making my work day longer and taking money out of my pocket.

      • Eugene Lee on February 27, 2020 at 3:55 pm

        You can waive your meal break, so long as your employer agrees to it. As long as it’s voluntary by you.

  23. Eddie on February 8, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    My employer doesnt let me know my estimated finish time. I am a route delivery driver. Thanks. any info helps.

  24. Nevin C on February 5, 2020 at 11:28 am

    Can my employer force me to take an early lunch break after only being on shift for 3 hours?

  25. Erika solarte on February 3, 2020 at 3:08 am

    Hi i am waiting for someone to get a hold of my i have a ticket number fir my filed complaint

  26. Christina Delgado on January 31, 2020 at 6:38 pm

    I work graveyard shifts at a hotel. I work from 11pm till 7 am. I cannot leave the hotel to have a lunch break there would be nobody at the front desk so I would be interupted as it’s just me at the hotel at night. Can they force me to take a break even tho I can’t leave my station.

  27. Tammie Rodriguez on January 23, 2020 at 6:18 pm

    Im scheduled to work my shift in wich it is from 10 a.m to 7p.m .I was given my lunch after 3 hrs of being on my shirt .Is there any laws for the amount of time i should b working before having to go to lunch

  28. JJ on January 14, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    I work at a county owned hospital (allied health, non-exempt) and management has changed our shift times from 7:30am-4pm and 11:30am-8pm to 7am-3:30pm and 1pm-9:30pm. They are requiring that we stay on site at the hospital during our meal break (but can leave the department). I have two issues with this new schedule. First, the AM employee does not take their meal break until 1pm, which is after the 5 hour rule, correct? Secondly, the PM employee is forced to stay on site. My understanding of the law is that this does not count has a meal break and we should be paid 1 extra hour accordingly. Sometimes one staff member works the entire 7:30am-8pm and we are not given any extra pay for missing breaks or meal periods, only the 1.5x for the hours worked over 8 hours. We are also covered by a large union who doesn’t find anything wrong with these hours and meal time assignments. Do the same state laws not apply if you are covered by a collective bargaining agreement?

  29. Bentley on January 12, 2020 at 10:28 am

    My employer is saying I have to work three and one-half (3 1/2) hours without using the restroom.

    • Joshua Petrie on January 16, 2020 at 1:54 pm

      They must be confusing a rest break with a “bio” break. DLSE policy simply prohibits an employer from requiring that employees count any separate use of toilet facilities as a rest period. Read more: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_RestPeriods.htm

    • Renee on April 6, 2020 at 9:30 pm

      I dont think that’s legal. You cant be told WHEN to use the bathroom. BUT if you
      Constantly use it I could see that as a problem.

  30. Diego on January 9, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Hey there,

    I work as a waiter at a mom & pop diner. Never in the five years that I have been working there have we, the employees, ever taken a rest or lunch break. When employees are hired there, there are no policies, no regulations or rules to look over via handbook or simply posted throughout the restaurant like other locations do.

    Now that I am leaving, I would like to get reimbursed for all the time I never took a break. I don’t have any scheduling records, but do have all my paystubs from the time I started working there.

    Do you think I may have a solid case for a break violation?

    Thank you.

    • James L. on January 29, 2020 at 9:40 am

      Diego, it is a mom and pop store like you said, not a big corporation. Be grateful that they provided you with a job for 5 years and move on.

      If you really had an issue with it,
      you should have brought it up 5 years ago. It is a bad karma for you to leave your previous boss like that especially if they are mom and pop store. Good luck with your future and move on to the better things in life.

      • Susan on February 26, 2020 at 4:19 pm

        I disagree BUT he should have said something a long time ago.

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