Meal Breaks

Despite what you may have heard, rest and meal breaks are still guaranteed and required to be provided to employees in California. If anyone says otherwise, they are wrong. If anyone claims that employers no longer have to give their employees meal breaks, they are mistaken.

In short, an employer must “provide” at least 1 uninterrupted meal period for a minimum of 30 minutes when an employee works more than 5 hours. The employer is not required to pay for the meal period but may choose to do so.

An employer’s meal period requirement is satisfied if the employee (1) has at least 30 minutes of an uninterrupted meal break, (2) is free to leave the premises, and (3) is relieved of all duty for the entire period. Failure to satisfy all three requirements may result in a meal period penalty. Many employers fail to provide an “uninterrupted” meal period by, for example, allowing the employee to eat at her desk but requiring her to answer the phone or greet customers. That is not an uninterrupted meal period and the employer is violating the law.

The first meal period must be provided no later than the start of the 6th hour worked. This means that the meal period must start no later than the end of the employee’s 5th hour of work. For example, if the employee starts work at 8:30 a.m., the meal period must begin no later than 1:30 p.m.

Further, if an employee works more than 10 hours, the employee is entitled to a 2nd meal period no later than the start of the 11th hour. Thus, the 2nd meal period must start no later than the end of the employee’s 10th hour of work.

Rest Breaks

Rest break requirements in California differ from meal breaks. Rest break time is considered time worked and the employee must be paid for this time.

In short, employees are entitled to a paid break for 10 minutes for every 4 hours work. However, a rest break is not required if an employee works a total time of less than 3.5 hours.

There are exceptions, for example, for exempt employees and in certain situations the meal period may be waived. On the other hand, employers cannot prevent employees to take meal and rest breaks by simply making an employee a “salaried” employee or giving the employee a “manager” title. Certain requirements must be met by employers to avoid the meal and rest breaks requirements.

If you believe your employer is not properly giving you your meal or rest breaks, contact us at (213) 213-2525 or and we can evaluate your situation.

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