Under California labor law , breaks such as meal periods and rest periods should be given to employees, and if employers do not follow the following guidelines, they are required to provide certain compensation as stated under in California wage and hour law. California is one of only a few with State overtime laws that regulate breaks as the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not make provisions for mandatory breaks.

California Labor Law:  Breaks for Meals

  • Most occupations require a meal break after 5 hours of work if working over a 6 hour day
  • Under California lunch breaks should be free of all work related activities
  • Working and eating at your desk is not a proper meal break
  • Watching the store while you are eating is not a proper meal break
  • Additional pay is required for any meal breaks with which work duties are performed
  • Additional compensation of 1 hours pay for every day you missed a break is also required under California labor law
  • If you work over 10 hours a day, you are entitled to 2 thirty minute meal breaks
  • For days worked over 10 hours, your meal periods must be no more than 5 hours apart
  • An Additional 1 hour of pay is required if you do not receive both meal breaks

In California, employees must receive a 30 minute, duty free meal break if they work in excess of 5 hours.  Under California labor laws, breaks should be absolutely free of all work related activities; otherwise, that time should be compensated.  For example, if you have to answer a phone call, man the front desk, listen to a presentation, or perform any other work-related duties while you are on your break, then you were not given a proper break and are entitled under the state law to be paid for that time.

If you have ever been required to eat at your desk while working, then you have experienced one of the most common meal break violations and may be eligible to file a wage and hour claim.  Because you have not been relieved of all your work related duties, you were not given a proper meal break.  Not only is your employer required to pay you for the time spent working and eating, but you are also entitled to additional compensation with regards to meal premium.  This compensation is equal to one hours pay for every day that you missed a break.

Additionally, two meal breaks are required in one working day if an employee works over 10 hours in one day.  These meal periods should be no more than 5 hours apart.  So for example, if your first lunch break is at 1:00 pm, and you do not get a second break until 6:30, then your employer is in violation and is required to pay you an additional hour of pay for that day.  However, if you miss both breaks, you still only get compensated for one hour and not two.

California Labor Law:  Breaks for Rest

  • If you work over 3.5 hours in one day, you are entitled to a mandatory rest break of 10 minutes
  • Rest breaks are to be spaced in the middle of each work period
  • Rest breaks are considered work and should be compensated
  • Bona fide exempt employees are not covered for rest breaks.

Under California labor law, breaks for rest are required if you work over 3 and a half hours in a day.  These mandatory rest breaks are to be 10 minutes long for every 4 hours worked or fraction thereof.  Rest breaks are considered work, and any employer who fails to provide an employee a rest period will be penalized.

As an employee, you are entitled to recover one hour of pay for every work day that the rest break is not provided under the California meal period laws.  The only exception to this law is those employees who are “exempt”, and therefore are not subject to this rule.

If your employer has failed to give you mandatory meal and rest breaks, fill out our Case Evaluation Form and one of the Lore Law Firm overtime attorneys experienced in California labor law will help you determine if you have a valid case.