In California, an hourly employee must be given a 30-minute unpaid meal break each day for shifts lasting more than five hours. The meal break must begin at most five hours into the shift. For example, if an employee clocked in at 9:00 a.m., they must begin their lunch break by 2:00 p.m. Put another way, an employee can’t be asked to leave 30 minutes early at the end of their 8-hour shift in lieu of taking a meal break in the middle of the day.
An employee must be given the freedom to do what they want with their meal break. They should not remain ‘on call’ for the employer, for example, being asked to stay in the store to answer the phone if it rings during their lunch. Instead, an employee must have the freedom to leave the workplace to, for example, run an errand, eat in the park, and so forth.
An employee is also due a second meal break if they exceed 10 hours on the clock. This second meal break must ordinarily be taken by the start of the 10th hour of work. By way of example, if an employee clocked in at 9:00 a.m., clocked out for lunch at 2:00 p.m., and clocked back in at 2:30 p.m., the employee must start their second meal break by 7:30 p.m.
An hourly employee must be given a 10-minute rest break for every 4 hours of work or major fraction thereof. This means that on an 8-hour shift, an employee must be given two rest breaks. A shift must last at least 3.5 hours, however, for an employee to be entitled to their first rest break. If a shift goes over 10 hours, an employee is entitled to a third rest break.
Unlike meal breaks, rest breaks must be taken on-the-clock, meaning the employee must be paid while they are on their break. Unlike meal breaks, there is no set time in a shift where a rest break must be taken. However, rest breaks must still be spaced reasonably throughout the workday. In other words, an employer cannot require an employee to take all of their rest breaks immediately upon clocking into their shift in the morning or at the very end of the day right before they are set to leave.
Finally, as with a meal break, when an employee is on a rest break, they should be relieved of all work duty. For example, if the employee wanted to go outside to make a personal phone call, they must be permitted to do so. By way of another example, an employer could not require the employee to stay in the store in order to assist a customer that walks in while they are on their rest break.
KLF's employment attorneys work with you to determine whether or not you have been denied the meal and rest breaks required by California law. If your rights have been violated, we advise you on the best way for us to get your employer to provide you with proper breaks and to compensate you for prior missed breaks. We negotiate on your behalf and file a lawsuit as necessary. If we find that your employer also has violated the rights of your coworkers, we may be able to help them, too.
Contact us regardless of whether or not you are confident that your employer broke the law. And no amount of unpaid wages is too small — if your employer benefited from your work or even so much as knew you were working, you deserve to be paid. Based in Glendale, we represent employees in the Los Angeles area and throughout California. All consultations are free and confidential.
If you believe you were not properly provided with meal and rest breaks by your employer, we encourage you to get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the firm at (818) 221-2800. If your employment rights have been violated, we can help. All consultations are free and confidential.