Breaks Provision← Back to California Overtime and Labor Laws Page
The California labor law Breaks provision provides that employees must receive a 30 minute meal break if they work in excess of five hours. During this time, the employee must be relieved of all duties because it cannot be a working lunch. If an employer fails to give a proper meal break, the employee can recover one hour of pay at their regular rate of pay for each day they are not provided a proper meal break.
There are exceptions to the rules regarding California labor law Breaks provision. A bona fide “exempt” employee is not subject to this rule. If the work day is less than six hours, the employee can agree to waive the time period. In the health care industry, an employee can agree, in writing, to waive this meal period. Further, employees working under a collective bargaining agreement may not be subject to the rules regarding meal periods. In some cases, an “on duty” meal break can be provided only when the nature of the job prevents the employee from being relieved of duty and if there is a written agreement between the employer and employee. The written agreement shall state that the employee may revoke the agreement at any time. These rules only apply to employees in California. Federal law does not have a meal time requirement.
In addition, the California labor law Breaks provision requires that employees get rest breaks if they work over three and a half hours a day. These mandatory breaks must be in the middle of each work period and must be 10 minutes for every four hours worked or fraction thereof. Rest breaks are work time and as such, the employee must be paid for them. If an employer fails to provide an employee a rest period, the employee can recover one hour of pay for each work day that the rest period is not provided. An exception to the rule is made for bona fide “exempt” employees. They are not subject to this rule. The rules laid out by the California labor law Breaks provision are very black and white in regard to rest breaks. If you work at least 3.5 hours in a day, you are entitled to a rest break. Your employer must give you a rest break of at least 10 consecutive minutes for each 4 hours worked. Rest breaks must to the extent possible be in the middle of each work period. Rest breaks must be paid. Your employer may require you to remain on work premises during your rest break. You cannot be required to work during any required rest break.
In addition the California labor law Breaks provision is very finite when it comes to meal breaks. 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 employer to waive this meal period provided you do not work more than 6 hours in the workday. You can also agree with your employer 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. You can agree with your employer to waive the second meal break if you do not work more than 12 hours and you did not waive your first meal break. Your employer has an affirmative obligation to ensure you are free to take your meal break off work premises. You cannot be required to work during any required meal break.
Have questions about your own situation? Contact us and we can give you more information and review your specific circumstances. You can submit your information using the convenient online intake form, send an email or call Michael Lore.