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


  1. 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?

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

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


    • 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.” —

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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