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What Break Periods Am I Entitled To?

california rest break laws meal break lawsUnder California law (which is much more generous to employees than federal law), if you are a non-exempt worker, you are entitled to meal and rest breaks: a 30-minute meal break if you work more than 5 hours in a workday, and 10 minutes breaks for every 4 hours you work. There are other requirements though. If your boss doesn’t comply with break requirements, they are required to pay you one extra hour of regular pay for each day on which a break violation occurred.

For the nitty gritties, see below:

Rest Breaks

  1. If you work at least 3.5 hours in a day, you are entitled to a rest break.
  2. Your boss must give you a rest break of at least 10 consecutive minutes for each 4 hours worked.
  3. Rest breaks must to the extent possible be in the middle of each work period.
  4. Rest breaks must be paid.
  5. Your boss may require you to remain on work premises during your rest break.
  6. You cannot be required to work during any required rest break. [Cal. Lab. C. 226.7]. BUT, you are free to skip your rest break provided your boss isn’t encouraging or forcing you to.

Meal Breaks

  1. If you work over 5 hours in a day, you are entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes. 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.
  2. If you work over 10 hours in a day, you are entitled to a second meal break of at least 30 minutes. 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.
  3. Your boss has an affirmative obligation to ensure you are free to take your meal break off work premises.
  4. You cannot be required to work during any required rest break. [Cal. Lab. C. 226.7]. Your boss has an affirmative obligation to ensure you are actually relieved of all duty and are not performing any work during meal breaks.

Keep in mind, there are many exceptions to the above for certain industries, such as the healthcare, group home, motion picture, manufacturing, and baking industries.

If your employer is violating your rights to meal and rest breaks, you should contact a lawyer right away. Your claims could be 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.

Keep on taking those breaks!

Photo courtesy of cjmellows

1,215 Comments

  1. Alex on June 24, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    I know that you must take your lunch before your 5th hour, but is there any guidance on how soon you can take your 30 minute meal break?

  2. Allen joe on June 24, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    I work a labor job only 6 hours a day but its consist work I mean literally non-stop with the 2 managers on everyone’s asses.(car-detailing)

    In a 6 hour shift they tell me 10mins but it takes atleast 5 mins to walk to and from the breakroom so I just take 15 mins.

    I never signed or agreed to waive my 30min lunch. So if I were to say take it to court would I qualify for that extra one hour pay for each day or no?

  3. JoAnn Lewy on June 24, 2017 at 8:43 am

    I work 11am to 3pm a 4 hour shift. Do I get a 10 minute break and can I take it at any time?

  4. Jake on June 23, 2017 at 12:16 am

    I work from 9 to 5 but I’m paid from 8 to 5. I get a one hour lunch after being there for 4 hours. Am I also entitled to 2 10 minute breaks? I work in an office

  5. Kassidy Forsythe on June 22, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    My employer forces us to clock in then clock out 1 minute later for a 30 minute lunch every day at the beg of our shifts. My shifts are always 6 hours (union mandated). Is there any way to voluntarily NOT take a meal break? I feel like theyre basically forcing me to work without pay 30 min every day since i am required to be HERE but not earning any money.

  6. Sid on June 22, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    My employer forces us to clock in then clock out 1 minute later for a 30 minute lunch every day at the beg of our shifts. My shifts are always 6 hours (union mandated). Is there any way to voluntarily NOT take a meal break? I feel like theyre basically forcing me to work without pay 30 min every day since i am required to be HERE but not earning any money.

  7. Omar Puente on June 22, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    My wife’s job b they where told that they couldn’t go out and buy food anymore that they need the employees to be near just in case they need them… isn’t your lunch break your personal time? As long as you’re not doing anything illegal…

    • ST on June 25, 2017 at 1:44 pm

      Not if it’s a Paid Meal. Anything paid, you aren’t required to work, but can be mandated to not leave the premises.

  8. TT on June 22, 2017 at 10:12 am

    I work 8 hours a day and get only an hour lunch break. Is this okay? My boss said the 2 ten minute breaks already included in the lunch break.

    • Jake Bern on June 22, 2017 at 12:46 pm

      You work 8 hours a day and ONLY get 1 hour of break? How much more time do you need to eat?

  9. Icelz on June 21, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Hi
    Are the employers supposed to paid for the 30 minuteso lunches break or just the 10 minute break

    • Eugene Lee on June 21, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      Just the 10 minute rest breaks

  10. jamie on June 21, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    What happens If you file against a job who is only giving you a 30 minute lunch break for 8 hours of work? I have never had a 10 min break and neither have my colleagues.

  11. Dwight Albert on June 19, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    I work from 6am to 230pm and I take my lunch break at 11:15-11:45. Is this a violation? That’s after the 5th hour.

  12. Robert Martinez on June 19, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    At our job people are getting lunch breaks 8 hours into the shift is that a violation ? Example the clock in at 6:30 pm and they take lunch at 2:30 am

    • Eugene Lee on June 19, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      the lunch must start no later than the end of the 5th hour into the shift

      • Robert Martinez on June 20, 2017 at 1:25 pm

        So if that doesn’t happen are we owed monies ?

  13. David on June 18, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    I work 7 and half hours i get an hour lunch and 2 ten min breaks is that accurate

    • Eugene Lee on June 18, 2017 at 7:38 pm

      I think you are getting the legally correct number of meal and rest breaks.

  14. Gary R Williams on June 18, 2017 at 11:08 am

    I work 8 hours a day for the last 9 years in the same place and very rarely get a break. Albeit I’m usually the only one on site. Am I still entitled to breaks or no? I get them every now and then. I only took up smoking so that I could stand outside for a minute, but even when I do that, I’m right back in dealing with customers. What are my rights on this?

    • Eugene Lee on June 18, 2017 at 7:40 pm

      If you work 8 hours a day, you should be getting one 30-minute meal break and two 10-minute rest breaks. There are some exceptions, but most employees in most workplaces should be getting this.

      • Wade y on June 22, 2017 at 8:07 am

        If you work just under 8 hours are you still entitled to a second 10 minute break?

        • Eugene Lee on June 22, 2017 at 8:28 am

          Yes, as long as you work over 6 hours, you are entitled to a second 10-minute rest break.

  15. Enrique Rodríguez on June 15, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    I work 8 hours days and get only 1 30 min break is that ok or are they suppose to give me more breaks sometimes 9 or 10 hoyrs and still get only 1 break

    • JC on June 16, 2017 at 11:39 pm

      You should get a 10 minute paid break for every 4 hours work. In this case, 2 10 minute breaks.

      • Eugene Lee on June 18, 2017 at 7:41 pm

        JC is correct. If you work over 10 hours, you should get a THIRD 10-minute rest break.

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