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 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

2,442 Comments

  1. Jose on June 15, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    Hi, I work in a bar and haven’t been given a single meal break since I started working there. I normally work over 6 hours and have had more than a handful of shifts over 8. I have never once been told by a manager to take a break and the way the schedule is set up I’m so busy that if I took a break they wouldn’t have anyone to pick up the slack. A new hire told me that upon signing his paper work the management had him sign something pertaining to waiving his meal breaks, however I do not remembering singing anything like this. I’m wondering even if I did sign said paper work, if it is within my rights to still receive a break, and if the bar is wrong for not scheduling enough people to handle the workload.

  2. Vivian on June 15, 2019 at 10:27 am

    I work in a high school kitchen from 7:30 – 1:00. We started the week off with 15 minute breaks at 9:30 – 9:45. Our lunch would be at 12:15 – 12:45 after we finish serving students. The boss switched our break and lunch times on the last day of the week and it is to remain that way until the summer session is over. Can she do that? It doesn’t make sense to take a lunch before a break.

  3. Annonymous on June 14, 2019 at 9:04 am

    I have a question. I work from home 5am-4pm . We used to have 2 15 breaks , and one 10 and and hour lunch. Now we have 2 15 min and an hour lunch. Also my lunches since February have gotten later… 1015am, all the way until 11am. This doesnt seem legal, as it is after 5 hours. Whst do I do?

  4. Jane on June 13, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    We have in house non-exempt sales people. When they are on their 30 minute meal break they want to be interrupted as to not lose the sale. Is it legal for them to clock back in for the sale and clock back out for their meal break? Alternatively, can we legally interrupt them without penalty?

  5. Mikki on June 13, 2019 at 3:35 pm

    If I work from 7:30am to 4pm can my employer make me take my lunch by 11am or 11:30am that is quite early for me I was going at 12:15 before. I am just wondering because it seems like now I am spending my days hungry.

  6. Brie on June 13, 2019 at 1:06 am

    Is my employer able to force me to take my unpaid meal break immediately after clocking in? i.e. I’m scheduled from from 9 am to 5 pm- I’m expected to clock in at 9 a.m. “organize my work station” and clock out for my meal break at 9:01 a.m. come back to work at 9:31 a.m. and work the rest of my shift without a break.

  7. Maria on June 12, 2019 at 10:59 am

    Hello, I am county secretary and work in a high paced, high profile executive office. I work a 9 hour work day, am I obligated to take a 30 minute lunch or can I choose to take a 15 minute “working lunch”?

  8. Sally on June 7, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    Is there any restriction on how soon the 10 minute break can be given after lunch? I work from 7:30-4:30, and get my lunch break from 1-2. I am being given my 10 minute rest break at 2:20. That seems really soon.

    • X on June 11, 2019 at 4:59 pm

      if you start work at 7:30am, the LATEST you can start your lunch is 12:30pm. so already that’s a misfire. In regards to 10’s, you should be able to take them whenever as long as they’re not directly following or before your lunch. you get 2 10’s, btw.

  9. COURTNEY on June 6, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    Hello, I have questions regarding the meal penalty violation. I start at 6:00am and end shift at 2:30pm. pretty much everyday I take lunch around 11:30am or later. My supervisor has told me I have to wait until my coworker is back from lunch so that there is always staff in the office. And I have reported this to the HR as well. I noticed on my timeclock when I clock out for lunch late, it says :*bonus applied*. Then later that message is gone. And on my paychecks I was not paid for the extra hour. I am planning to type up all the dates of lates punches and email them to HR. Is this a valid complaint to sue? And what forms do I need to fill out if my employer refuses? thank you

    • X on June 11, 2019 at 5:19 pm

      From what you just mentioned, you’re actually required to take your break before 11am because that would be your 5th hour of work.

    • Grace Brown on June 12, 2019 at 2:30 pm

      Courtney, what was the answer to your question. I have the same question and cant find the answer. If you find out please tell me …. [email protected]

  10. Tracy Mitchell on June 6, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    So when I start work at 6am and end at 4:30pm and I get two 15 minute breaks and one 30 minute lunch, is that being compliant to the labor laws? I only ask as a lot of my coworkers and I have been working these hours since August 2018 and we were told to take three 15 minute breaks and one 30 minute lunch and 10 months later we are now being told to only take 2- 15 minute breaks and one 30 minute lunch. I’m very confused now since it’s been 10 months of working these hours and now we are having the 3rd break being taken away. Thank you

    • Wesley on June 8, 2019 at 6:17 pm

      Is it legall for your employer to make you take a 30 right after the start of your shift as in clock in the clock out to take your thirty

      • Joseph on June 15, 2019 at 4:48 pm

        No you have to work at least 2 hours before you cam take a lunch. Well let me rephrase. You don’t HAVE to but if you clock out before 2 hrs your employer still had to pay you for 2 hours.

  11. Cari on June 6, 2019 at 8:41 am

    I’m a in-home healthcare nurse. I work 8 hour shifts without any relief. How does my employer avoid paying extra for this type of practice? I am assuming they have a legal work around.

  12. Randy Rodgers on June 4, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    Is there a requirement to when a break time can change. For example a normal shift is 12p to 9p with a 1hr off the clock meal break at 3p. This time can be changed depending on the days assignments. However can they change my break a half hour before i’m scheduled to take it?

  13. joy on June 4, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    I work from 6:30am to 3:30 pm. I do get a half an hour PAID lunch break but, I don’t get 2 rest breaks. I this a violation?

    • X on June 11, 2019 at 5:02 pm

      yes. you should get two 10’s.

  14. Jennifer Pizano on June 4, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    can an employer write up up for going over 5th hour for lunch working 6 hours that day and using vacation time to cover the remaining hours to make it 8 hours total? I clocked in at 5am and left at 10:15am, I went over by 15 mins on my lunch however, I worked less than 6 hours so I couldve just signed a meal waiver. My boss did payroll and used vacation hours to cover the rest of my time that day which i agreed to without thinking anything of it. I get called into HR and had to sign a write up for going over my 5th hour but i was not physically working 8 hours, i only worked 5.25 hours and left for the day and used up vacation hours to cover the rest of the day so i am not short on my check. is that something that can happen? are they within their rights to give me a write up for this?

    • Blanca Leyva on June 5, 2019 at 10:22 am

      If I work 9 pm till 9am no stop that consider over time? They say no is over time till next day if we work again. They sa 9pm till 12am is 3 hours and 12 to 9 is and other day

      • X on June 11, 2019 at 5:07 pm

        naw, your job is trying to screw you over! you should get two lunch breaks (30 minimum) and three 10’s. after 8 hours they should be paying you a time and a half of your hourly rate. after ten hours, they should be paying you double the hourly rate.

  15. Jennifer Pizano on June 4, 2019 at 11:58 am

    Hello, I have a question, I started work at 5am and left work for my sons graduation at 10:15 am. I went over the 5th hour, however since its under 6 hours worked, I could sign a meal waiver. When it was time to do payroll, my boss asked me if I wanted to use sick or vacation time to cover the rest of the day to have my 8 hours vs just the 5.25 hours worked and I agreed to use my vacation hours. My question is, since opted to use my vacation hours to complete 8 hours, am I in violation for the 5th hour rule? I got a write up for going over my 5th hour and wanted to know if by me using my vacation time to cover rest of the day off is within their right to give a write up or would just not using any vacation time or sick time be best to do going forward?

    • X on June 11, 2019 at 5:14 pm

      They should not have written you up bc you worked less than 6 hours and opted out of your lunch! in regards to the vacation time, i think they just wanted to see whether or not you wanted to be paid the regular amount you are paid on a shift, in case you needed your paycheck to be about the same amount as your others. however you absolutely don’t have to use vacation time just to do that.

  16. Victor Boyadzhyan on June 3, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    An exampt employee on 9/80 by-weekly schedule… can he/she choose to take a half an hour lunch break instead of 1 hour. I am looking California labor law that regulates that.

  17. joe on June 3, 2019 at 11:48 am

    my company makes us sign a break waver to not take a break EVERYDAY but we still can but its looks down on if we do. is this ok? And we must sign this form everyday.

    • X on June 11, 2019 at 5:16 pm

      you should only have to sign one waiver the whole time of your employment at that job. yes you are still allowed to have a lunch if you want to. if they complain, or at worst fire you, you have the law on your side.

  18. Brenda ponce on June 2, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    I started at 7:30am and I have to take my lunch at 1pm is that a violation

    • Eugene Lee on June 2, 2019 at 12:18 pm

      Yes, if you didn’t do that voluntarily.

  19. maria on May 31, 2019 at 10:35 pm

    i work in the office and my boss is very strict with time and I am not sure if his reasoning is valid.

    He wants me to work 8 hours shift for the same time every day by the dot. if i choose not to be consistent by a little i get in trouble

    example
    my shift is 7:30 to 4 pm, if I start 7:45 and leave 4:15, thats late i get in trouble.

    if i start earlier, i then clock out early, 7:15 to 3:45, i get in trouble.

    the lunch break however, i only get a min/max of 30 minutes unpaid, and i opted not to use my 2 10 minute break

    i once took 15 mins (unpaid) more time for my lunch, i got in trouble for being late.

    my nature of work is in the office, which i dont get the point to have to be strict on that aspect as long as you meet the daily 8 hour shift and take a break.

    does my boss has a reason to be strict about it ? is there a thing called clocking back in late for lunch when you work in an office setting?

    • Melanie on June 2, 2019 at 5:34 pm

      Maria – your boss is well within their right to be restrictive on the work hours. The boss can dictate the exact start time of work, the exact end time of work, and more. They are only required to offer a 30-minute lunch break if that is their choice. You should take your 2 breaks though…this is paid time, so you might as well take advantage of it. Even though you don’t get the point of the strict time lines is irrelevant. And yes – if the boss allows only 30 minutes for lunch and you clocked in 15-minutes late, then that is a ‘thing’. Failure to follow workplace timelines is considered insubordination and could potentially be grounds for termination.

  20. Carlos on May 31, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    Do my employer have to provide rest areas , like to eat or rest during my 30 break or it’s illegal to send to the park that it’s 5 minutes walking distance ???

    • Melanie on June 2, 2019 at 5:36 pm

      Carlos – the employer does not have to provide rest/break/lunch areas. They are only required to provide you with the rest/break/lunch time. It is up to you to choose how and where you spend that time. If you go to the park – that’s fine – but your 5 minute travel time is part of your rest/break/lunch time.

  21. M on May 31, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    If I worked for example from 8:00AM to 7:00PM with no breaks in between, on top of my 11-hours worked should be 1 hour meal penalty and 1 hour rest break penalty. It means that I should get paid with 13 hours on that day. Correct?

    • Mia on June 3, 2019 at 11:22 pm

      I worked a 7 hour shift today and only got a 30 minute unpaid break, is this legal? I’ve never experienced this before and I’m not sure what to do or how to bring this up to management because 30 minutes is not enough for a 7 hour shift and I’m in complete pain by the end of my shift

  22. Bonnie Hammond on May 29, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    is it legal for them to push you out to lunch 3 hurs after you get to work if you are working 8 hour shifts? im always starving by the end of the 8 hours, I have ask several times to be the last to go to luch and will sign paper so they are not penalized for late lunch , it was my choice. but im being pushed out to lunch at 3 hours.

    • Melanie on June 2, 2019 at 5:39 pm

      Bonnie – they can send you to lunch after you have worked only 3 hours. They are required by law to send you to lunch before the end of the 5th hour of work. They can send you early, but not later. Even if you sign a paper – they must send you prior to the end of the 5th hour unless there is some special circumstance on a particular day. On an 8 hour shift, you would get a 30-minute lunch and 2 breaks. It is recommended (but not required) that the breaks be given before and after the lunch break.

      • Sarah on June 3, 2019 at 5:00 pm

        I just had a consultation with a lawyer earlier and I was advised that if employees would like to take their lunch after the 5th hour we can have a form signed that they are refusing to take the lunch within the 5th hour and we do not have to pay the pay penalty. Is that accurate?

  23. Sarah Prieb on May 26, 2019 at 7:33 am

    I am never given the opportunity to take a break at work as no one else in the building is able to do my job. I am told to clock in and out and the will adjust my time card. Is that legal? No they want everyone to sign something that says we will manage our own timecards and that we need to break ourselves instead of being provided a time to take a break. Are they allowed to drop that under the law?

  24. Edward on May 26, 2019 at 6:02 am

    I have worked for a company for 13 years in California, and for the first few years I worked 10 hours a day, and wasn’t given lunch till 7 the hour of the day and just about a month ago they finally changed it. Am I still entitled to all that back pay for the 13 years?

    • Been there, won that :) on May 29, 2019 at 12:28 pm

      Yes you most certainly are entitled to that back pay. However you would have to have indisputable evidence that backs up your claim. The labor board is so overwhelmed with claims that you need to have a simple, rock solid case in order to better improve the odds of having your case heard to start with. Plus. Do have think about possible negative impact in may have at your job. Even though they cant retaliate, doesnt mean they wont be mean about it.

    • Donna on June 2, 2019 at 8:19 am

      I just read the filing time limit is 1-3 years, depending on the type of job

    • Melanie on June 2, 2019 at 5:40 pm

      Edward – you are very likely beyond the statute of limitation to file a claim.

  25. Chris on May 23, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Does your break start when you leave the area you work or when you get to the break room?

  26. Kelly on May 23, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Our group is non-expempt and we start our shift at 7:00 AM. We float a meal break between 11:30 and 12:30 depending on the cafeteria rush. We have signed a waiver agreement to waive the second meal that allows us to work until 7 pm without having to stop for a second meal break. Recently, we’ve been allowed to extend our shift (volunterarily) to 8 PM if desired. So my question is:
    If we take the first meal break and waive the second meal break, can we work past 7:30 pm without be required to take a second meal break? I Suspect the answer is no. Even if we moved the 1st meal break from 1 pm to 1:30, our 2nd “6hr” without a meal break would expire at 7:30 PM. Yes? No?
    Thanks!

  27. Dalton on May 22, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    Can my boss force me to take an hour unpaid meal break 5 hours into an 8 hour shift?

    • Melanie on June 2, 2019 at 5:42 pm

      Dalton – the answer is yes – your boss can force you to take a one-hour unpaid meal break 5 hours into an 8 hour shift. The meal break must be 30-minutes minimum, but it can be an hour. The lunch break must start before the end of the 5th hour of work. (Example: work starts at 8am, lunch must start before 1pm).

      • B on June 3, 2019 at 2:27 pm

        I work in food and constantly they leave me by myself in the restaurant forcing me to take my breaks late. For example I work 7:30 am today till 3, and I just now was able to take my lunch break (first break) at 2…. is this illegal?

  28. Jeff on May 20, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    I work in the entertainment industry. We tent to combine out two fifteen minute brakes into out lunch because of the time tables we work on. I see that Motion Picture industry is called out in the article above, but does that extent to other areas of entertainment of just Motion Picture? If it does apply, do you happen to know the labor code?

  29. Colleen Bolsten on May 19, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    Can an employee make you take a one hour lunch as opposed to 30 min law requirement?

  30. Lizzy on May 18, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    regarding paid or unpaid meal break, where can I find the exceptions regarding healthcare settings? we can not leave the premises during meal break if we are the only nurse on duty. we may get called back to the floor and have to work during our meal break. I need the specific regulation regarding healthcare workers

  31. Tabitha Sandbeck on May 15, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    My manager never lets me takes breaks. And I recently found out I am being paid salary instead of hourly so they don’t think they owe me anything. I am not sure if that is even legal as well?

    • Melanie on June 2, 2019 at 5:44 pm

      Tabitha – if you are paid a salary, then that means that you are likely considered an exempt employee. This means you are exempt from many of the same laws that protect hourly workers. It is perfectly legal for employers to pay a salary rather than hourly pay. I’m curious how you didn’t know, however.

  32. Gj on May 14, 2019 at 12:26 pm

    How far or closed to the next break if I start work at 8:00 am then my lunch hour is 11:40 and end at 5:00 pm

  33. Tonya on May 12, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    If your managers force you to take your unpaid 30 minute meal break within the first hour of your 8 hour shift… is that legal?

    • Olivia on May 16, 2019 at 5:46 pm

      Yes, thats illegal! Your meal break should be taken between the 3rd and the 5th hour of your shift

      • Annonymous on June 5, 2019 at 1:25 pm

        Does California Labor Laws provide a waiver for meal breaks? I can’t take my meal breaks in between the 3rd and the 5th hour of my shift. I had baritric surgery, my eating pattern is not regular, I basically eat every 3-4 hours which does not work with the 3rd and 5th meal break regulations. This is an example of a regular day for me, I get to work at 7:30, eat breakfast at 9:30, eat lunch at 1pm. Since I clock in at 7:30 I should be taking my meal break at noon but I’m not hungry by then. I’m searching online to try to find something but I’m not suing the right verbiage, nothing pops up.

    • Angela on May 21, 2019 at 12:06 pm

      If I start work at 6am can I take at 11:45 and be compliant

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