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

2,509 Comments

  1. Theresa on August 20, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    I do in home care for elderly on payroll and work 12-13 hour days and usually get a break here and there when I am not either tending to client, cooking, cleaning, laundry etc. is this Legal as can’t ever leave?

  2. Andrew on August 19, 2019 at 9:29 am

    If the job requires travel, can a break be taken on a plane during a flight?

  3. Adrian Torres on August 19, 2019 at 12:35 am

    I work as a receptionist and I don’t get my breaks I work 8 hours I get no rest breaks and lunch I have to still answer phones and deal with customers! My boss got mad at me recently and told me it’s my fault!! That I need to go get her and ask for my lunch and breaks? I’m I wrong but don’t you think that they need to come over and break me? Not me going to ask. Ooh but no she eats before me and breaks.

  4. Eve on August 16, 2019 at 11:03 am

    I have a question.
    If my hours of work are from 8 am to 4 pm and take my 30 minutes of a meal break, this means I will get paid 7.5 hours, right?

  5. Darlene Geren on August 13, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    We are a work alternative schedule and we get paid an extra hour if we don’t take our break before the sixth hour. My question is sometimes we are sent for an hour and a half lunch break is that legal ?

  6. M K Dunn on August 7, 2019 at 8:48 am

    Great question, Angela!
    Angela on May 21, 2019 at 12:06 pm
    If I start work at 6am can I take at 11:45 and be compliant?

    • ELM on August 11, 2019 at 3:22 pm

      My employer makes me take a 30 minute break as soon as I clock in for work. Is that legal? For example if I work at 10am, I clock in and then immediately clock out for my break and then start work at 10:30am. It’s usually a 6 hour shift. It’s a restaurant, but it doesn’t seem legal to come in to immediately go on break. Curious?

      • Joshua Petrie on August 12, 2019 at 8:05 am

        I don’t know the specifics on that timing, but this part seems pertinent: “…you can agree with your boss to waive this meal period provided you do not work more than 6 hours in the workday.”

        Someone else said they thought the meal break had to be 3 hours in to a shift. But here is the rest of that quote: “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.”

        I hope this helps!

  7. John Minnihan on August 6, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    As an employer, HOW do I document that employees take their breaks and meals timely? Having them sign that they did take them timely is not going to work because they will just say later that they were forced to sign or be fired’ and the courts accept their word as the truth over the employer.

  8. José Buenrostro on August 5, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    I work as a dispatcher for a trucking company I start at 2pm and im required to take my lunch before 7 pm. on some occasions the other dispatcher who is supposed to be here to relieve me of my duties is late and I am forced to take lunch at my desk since the phones can not be left unattended. In other instances I’ve had to work alone on a Saturday or cover the night shift and there is no one to cover me while I go on lunch. Should I be getting compensated for my lunches. I asked my boss what am I to do if no one available to cover for my lunch and she said I am allowed to eat at my desk.

  9. Marvin Bennett on August 5, 2019 at 1:42 pm

    If working over 6 hours are employees allowed to waive their meal break to the 6th hour?

    • Joshua Petrie on August 11, 2019 at 2:39 am

      My best guess: No, not exactly. You can only waive a meal break if your total worked time is less than 6 hours.

      At the end of the 5th hour worked (ex: 8am–1pm) the employer must relieve an employee of duty for 30 unpaid minutes (1–1:30pm) but doesn’t need to ensure no work is performed. So you’d be working 30 minutes for free, technically. Then, if you took a 30 minute break at the end of 6 hours (2pm) you’d technically be on the clock but not working. (I guess that balances out nicely… however…)

      If during your lunch (1–1:30pm) your employer asks you to do work you are now being denied “time for your own purposes” and in effect remain under the employer’s control and thus, the meal period must be paid. (I don’t know if that means a penalty hour or the regular 30 minutes though.) Also, if they become aware that you are working during your lunch they owe you the meal period.

      See https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_MealPeriods.htm for more info as there are exceptions.

  10. Chris on August 4, 2019 at 9:30 am

    My job has me working 14 hr shifts and tell me that I have to take two 1 hour breaks for lunch not sure if that is right or wrong but if I don’t take two lunches and only take a 1 hour lunch they still deduct the other hour from me

  11. Another One Leaving on August 2, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    Small business owner here. Thanks for the page and information — it’s helpful and well written given the rules you’re explaining. It’s both sad and amazing that something so simple as work breaks could become so complicated.

    There is SO much unnecessary regulatory complexity in this state. It has all kinds of costs to the economy that most people don’t even see. Labor law in particular is A) almost ALWAYS written from an assumed-adversarial stance, when it comes to the defining and attempting to legislatively micro-manage the relationship between employer and employee (frankly, it’s exhausting just to keep up with it), and B) ENTIRELY punitive — not a single “positive reinforcement” for job creation anywhere in the code, as far as I’ve ever seen. Creating jobs in California = 10,000+ ways to get hit with stick. Uh, no thanks…

    Six generations of family roots here, and over 35 years of being a small business contributor to California’s economy and tax base. I’m done tolerating the abuse, and I’m leaving California, and taking the jobs and tax contributions with me.

  12. Yvonne on August 1, 2019 at 10:30 am

    I worked for a place as a server that scheduled us to come in at 3:00 pm, work for 30 minutes and then we HAD TO take our 30 minute break from 3:30 to 4:00. I wouldn’t get out of work until almost 11pm and was given no other rest breaks during my shift. Is this allowed?

    • Joshua Petrie on August 11, 2019 at 2:46 am

      Not exactly… the calculator on this page above goes in to greater detail, but this may be helpful: “If your employer did not allow you the above meal and/or rest breaks on time, you would be entitled to 1 hour of wages for each day there was a rest break violation, and/or 1 hour of wages for each day there was a meal break violation.” Sounds like you are owed 2 extra hours of pay per day like that for the past 3 years (which is the statute of limitations on meal/rest violations, see Murphy v. Cole in CA Supreme Court).

  13. ANA LOPEZ on July 30, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    I work for a grocery store and work 8 hrs shift. is it ok to take my lunch before the 6th hour ?

    Also I come in on Saturdays and work 6 hrs but clock out at 6:05 do I still have to take a lunch ? can the company enter a 30 min lunch for me with out me know ?

  14. carolyn barlage on July 29, 2019 at 10:23 am

    please reply soon, I am a cashier at a large and growing well known retail market, the corporation has informed all cashiers that their breaks start when they leave the register, as I read the labor law in concerns to breaks one of the things I understand that my break starts when I enter the break room. Please inform me if I’m wrong. I want to inform the other cashiers.

    • Debi on July 30, 2019 at 10:50 am

      I think this is tricky & depends – are you required to clock out or go to the break room, if so then yes that’s is when it starts – if not I believe it can start at the time you leave the register but going to the break room is optional

    • Joshua Petrie on August 11, 2019 at 2:49 am

      “The rest period is defined as a “net” ten minutes, which means that the rest period begins when the employee reaches an area away from the work area that is appropriate for rest.”

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

  15. carolyn barlage on July 27, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    As a cashier we are told that our break starts when we walk away from the register instead of walking in the break room.

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