California Meal Break & Rest Break Law (2019) – 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

2,320 Comments

  1. Mario Mejia on March 22, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    Is my employer responsible by law to have a schedule that states your clock in time, and your clock out?…Becasu I only have a time schudel to clock in only..

  2. james iaconis on March 22, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    can you get fired for reporting to work 2 minutes late more than 2 times a week

  3. Kayla on March 20, 2019 at 10:05 am

    If someone was suppose to take a rest period but instead took a meal period, do they need receive penalty pay for not taking a 2nd rest period because they were scheduled 8 hours?

  4. Dave Marcus on March 19, 2019 at 6:07 am

    I would like to have a second persons thoughts. I’ve filed a claim but everyone involved seems to be draggin their feet on the issue & I’ve been unable to get a hold of my person. Is this normal or not? Jus curious

  5. Olivia munoz on March 18, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    My supervisor sends me to lunch 2 and a half hours after my shift started and breaks 40 minutes after my shift that means I’m going to be without a break for 6 hours not to mention that I’m pre diabetic I need to eat ( not to mention that send some coworkers home after 1 and a half hours after they shift without paying them the 4 that the law requires)

  6. Christina Reed on March 18, 2019 at 4:47 am

    Hi I’ve worked 75 times over 5 hrs before taking a lunch what kind if settlement would I get. I didn’t get paid 1 time for a meal penatly. And what is the price that is paid per penatly

  7. Gamma on March 17, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    Hi! I work 10 hours a day 6 days a week as a truck driver with no lunch and breaks taken, what should I get paid on regular hours and overtime hours? We do agriculture job in Visalia Ca . Thanks in advance!!

  8. Sara on March 16, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    My typical shift is 11am to 7pm. I’m told I need to take my break at 12:15, so 1 hour and 15 minutes into my shift. My question is, how much time needs to pass legally before I break?

  9. A on March 16, 2019 at 5:36 am

    For 4 years I’ve been working without lunch break or 10 min break , what am I entitled of? Can henfire me for making a claim?

    • Thy Truong on March 20, 2019 at 4:48 am

      My shift begin 10:00am to 7:00pm, I want to have lunch around 1200pm and rest around 5:00pm, is it legal for me to require my boss.

  10. Kay on March 15, 2019 at 10:46 pm

    My shift begins at 06:30 am and if we work a double the shift would end at 01:00 am. They are stating that in order to receive a bonus we must work a minimum of 6 consecutive hours of the extra shift; however, we are not entitled to a second meal break of 30 minutes unless we work until 01:30 am. If we choose to take a second meal break and only work until 01:00 am they will take away the bonus pay.

  11. Brian on March 14, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    Hello. I’m not understanding this. I’ve been playing around with this calculator. If someone works from 9am-5:15pm, it says time worked is 8:15 hours, but it doesn’t even show you what if you punched in your lunch break, which is unpaid. For example using a 9-5:15 schedule and the employee takes a 45 minute lunch at 12:45pm, the employee only works 7.5 hours, so shouldn’t that employee only get one 15 minute break and one 45 minute lunch instead of 2 15 minute breaks and 1 45 minute lunch.

  12. erica on March 14, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    If I work from 5:00PM to 9:pm total of 4 hours when do I get to take my break? is it after working 2 hours? or does it matter?

  13. Cheryl on March 13, 2019 at 9:11 am

    Can my CA employer force me to take my 30 minute break 15 minutes after starting my shift? 10am start, told must clock out from 1015-1045am and then work without a break until 430pm sometimes 530pm.

    • Robert on March 15, 2019 at 9:42 am

      No they can not. I would contact the labor department and make a report.

  14. Ralph perales on March 12, 2019 at 4:38 pm

    can I take a meal break right on the fifth hour like start at 8 am and take lunch right at 5 . pm on the dot . Please send me an answer to my email

  15. M. Figs on March 10, 2019 at 7:53 pm

    My shift starts at 4:30pm and it ends at 12:23am. I only take (1) 10 min break around 6:30pm and at 8:30pm I take my 30 min meal break . Am I entitle to another 10 min break.?

    • Robert on March 15, 2019 at 9:41 am

      Yes you are entitled to a second rest break which should be around 10:30pm

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