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What Break Periods Am I Entitled To? (2018)

california meal breaks, california rest breaks, 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 (or “major fraction” thereof). 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 meal break violation occurred, and another extra hour of regular pay for each day on which a rest break violation occurred.

For the nitty gritties, see below:

Rest Breaks

  1. Your boss must give you a rest break of at least 10 consecutive minutes that are uninterrupted.
  2. Rest breaks must be paid.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Your boss may not 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 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. You cannot be required to work during any required meal break. [Cal. Lab. C. 226.7].
  5. 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 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 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.

If your employer is violating your rights to meal and rest breaks, you should contact a lawyer right away as you may 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). 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.

Keep on taking those breaks!

Photo courtesy of cjmellows


  1. Ian on July 22, 2018 at 7:54 am

    I work at a movie theatre. I often work shifts such as 530-230am or later, then am required to come in the next day as early as 730am. Is this a split shift? Is it even legal without my written consent?

  2. Med worker on July 20, 2018 at 11:23 am

    What are the differing rules for healthcare or where can I find them?

  3. Destiny Herrera on July 17, 2018 at 10:49 am

    Do breaks have anything to do with how many employees you have? Or does it apply to any employee?

  4. Carol Matousek on July 12, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    My husband was asked recently to work his job for 11 1/2 hours each day for the summer months ( at least 4 months). He agreed , but was told he still gets only one 1/2 lunch break per shift . And they deduct 1/2 of time for that lunch break . But they deduct that 1/2 from his overtime hours not his regular hours . Is this legal for them to do that .?

    • Mark Mares on July 18, 2018 at 12:20 am

      It depends on what his time punches say.
      11 1/2 needs two lunches and 3 breaks. Second lunch can be waived but that’s if he and his boss agree.

      Let’s say he clocks in at 7 AM. that means he must punch his lunch no later than 11:59 AK. If his punch out for lunch is later, then that’s a violation and that’s an extra hour of pay at his regular rate.

  5. Maricela on July 11, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    I usually work 4pm to 930pm
    And only get to sit down and eat as soon as I’m done get back to work. No “actual” break.

    Or other days I work 11:30am-8:30pm
    And only get an hour break until 4pm

    Is that right?

  6. Bryan on July 6, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    Good afternoon, my employer says that you are authorized to take a 15 minute break in The am and pm provided we have worked a substantial amount of time to warrant a break. Is this something i should talk to a lawyer about. Thanks

    • Something for nothing on July 13, 2018 at 12:21 pm

      Sounds right to me.

  7. Curious angel on July 5, 2018 at 12:24 am

    My usual shift is as follows…

    8-3pm (7hrs)

    Is it legal to receive my meal break at 9am (1 hr into my shift) & 10min break 1.5hrs later 1045am?
    (also employees are given 1 free meal on days worked)
    **mind you, no food is available until opening 10:30am**

    • Something for nothing on July 13, 2018 at 12:20 pm

      Bring your own food ! Why is it someone else responsibility to feed you? Your a big girl!!!

      • angie on July 16, 2018 at 12:39 am

        It’s spelled “You’re a big girl” Not YOUR.

    • L m arnaiz on July 14, 2018 at 6:40 pm

      Generally no earlier than 3 and no later than 5 hrs into your shift is a meal break given. You are entitled to 10 min breaks on the clock as well

    • L m arnaiz on July 14, 2018 at 6:40 pm

      Generally no earlier than 3 and no later than 5 hrs into your shift is a meal break given. You are entitled to 10 min breaks on the clock as well

  8. Heather Sullivan on July 3, 2018 at 9:29 am

    Our shifts are generally 5.75 in am and 6 hours mid shift and pm shift. If i work a mid shift 12 pm to 6pm and clock out for a 30 minute break can i work til 630pm to obtain my full 6 hours like the rest of the employees who just take a 10 minute break?

    • Angie on July 11, 2018 at 1:42 pm

      Heather, you should ask your company about a Meal Waiver Agreement. This will allow employees who work 5-6 hours to waive their meal period. The law states an employee is entitled to a 30 min unpaid meal period if 5 hours are worked. With the waiver, you wouldn’t have to clock out for a lunch, if you are ok with working 6 hrs. However, you are allowed a rest period within that 6 hours. Just a suggestion ??

    • Mark Mares on July 18, 2018 at 12:29 am

      Yes. But keep in mind you will need a second 10 minute break at 6:30.

  9. Celia on July 2, 2018 at 9:45 am

    My work requires that I travel on a mobile unit during my work day. I don’t get to take a 30 minute uninterrupted break, but my boss docks me for that time as if I did. I was told to be creative and stop for food on my way to work or on my way back to the office. I did just that and now I got written up for it and I was forced to sign a “Directive Memorandum” for having stopped to get some lunch. The places where I work do not always have a place to store my lunch or to heat my food, much less a place to eat or to walk away from my assignment. What am I suppose to do? My boss doesn’t even have a clue what it’s like to work in these conditions, but yet she can write me up for it.

  10. Alicia on July 1, 2018 at 8:50 pm

    I am not looking to get my place of employment in trouble nor is this question due to me feeling like I have not been treated fairly. I enjoying knowing the rules and begin fully informed and cannot find information regarding meal breaks during shifts that are 10-12 hours and 12-16 hours. It is a agriculture based business however the position Is not in a field but it is in a environment in which you cannot leave. Similarily to a loan security guard in guard shack etc. I also heard that they must provide you with a hot meal after 12 hours but I think that’s only during nighttime hours correct?

  11. Elizabeth on June 26, 2018 at 8:18 pm

    My boss doesn’t care if we eat, neither if we rest…
    She just care about we make the job.
    Sometime I told her about 10 minutes every 4 hours unless, because we work 12 hrs shift.
    What can we do???

    • Jett V Dyer on June 30, 2018 at 2:02 pm

      Presuming you live in California you can and should report it to the government, you are entitled to these breaks no matter if you are part-time or full-time legal resident or undocumented immigrant and they cannot take them away from you. As well, they can not persecute you for reporting them, and if they do, you can bring charges on them.

    • Bee on July 1, 2018 at 7:06 am

      Every work place is supposed to post OSHA laws somewhere. If not just bring him a copy of it and highlight the area.
      If that doesn’t work… report him and the company.

    • Something for nothing on July 13, 2018 at 12:23 pm

      You should feel lucky you have a job. Your getting paid right? Than why are you complaining? If you want to make it in life you need to PUT in the WORK!

      • Luvlug on July 20, 2018 at 3:08 pm

        Stupid a***s like you …. 🙄 You’re the worst kind. That mentality is for those who follow order and conform to every Obey rule imposed upon them. Sovereignty, google it. We’re no ones slaves unless we allow ourselves to be.

  12. Monique on June 24, 2018 at 10:36 pm

    I work in L.A. CA. And am on a salary wage, not hourly. I am a manager, and get too busy sometimes to take my lunch break..which I don’t mind..I just want to get my work done. My boss gets very upset…and threatens to put me on an hourly wage. Because …its against the law not to take my lunch break. BEING a salary employee can I waive my lunch break if I’m working 8 hours in a day? I’m so tired of being threatened to be put hourly for doing my job and sometimes not taking my lunch.

    • Former HR on July 5, 2018 at 11:51 am

      A lunch break must always be taken, salaried or not. Any lunch break not taken becomes a violation against the employer and subjected to fines and penalties. So while I understand where you’re coming from, I also understand your boss’ frustration. Threatening to put you on hourly wage leads me to believe that you’re an exempt (not entitled to overtime) employee and are probably not required to record a time sheet. If that’s the case, by not taking your breaks you’re also incurring what is considered overtime that you’re not approved to work by your boss/employer and is also not being paid to you based on an exempt status (also a major violation in CA).

      You’re going to have start making the time to take your breaks. An 8hr shift in CA is entitled to one (1) 10-15min rest break (on the clock, for non-exempt employees) and one 30min lunch break (not on the clock, for non-exempt employees). These breaks can be taken at the same time (meaning 45mins total), BUT at least one of these breaks needs to occur by or at the 4.5hr mark of your shift.

      • toby on July 9, 2018 at 4:22 pm

        Being a salaried person, you are not actually entitled to ANY breaks.

      • Bryan on July 12, 2018 at 12:38 pm

        This is an interesting statement. Do you by chance have a link I can follow that officially addresses this issue and specifically states either ALL California employees or EXEMPT California employees must take a meal break? I’ve never heard of this being a requirement for an exempt employee yet recently heard it is a requirement. I’m looking to find an official stance by the State vs. opinion. Thanks for any help in advance.

    • Something for nothing on July 13, 2018 at 12:27 pm

      Your right! It sucks having to be forced to take a break and thus lengthen your work day. BUT WHINY , LAZY r***rds like the ones that are posting here, Make life miserable for us normal hard working people. They are so busy trying to get something for nothing that they f*** it up for the rest.

      • Al on July 19, 2018 at 12:20 pm

        You’ve got a real chip on your shoulder. What happened to you?

      • Ann on July 21, 2018 at 2:47 pm

        You call yourself normal. That dialogue was anything but normal.

  13. GEORGE on June 22, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    At my workplace, most employee take their lunches for 1hr, but I like to take just 30min. Can I do that? By law, no one can force me to take 1hr lunch, right?

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