Meal and Rest Breaks

Meal Breaks Basics 

In California, an employer is required to ensure 1) employees are receiving the correct number of meal breaks, 2) that meal breaks are being recorded, and 3) proper pay for any missed meal breaks. ​​​​​​​​

Nearly all non-exempt employees are entitled to receive a thirty (30) minute meal break for every five (5) hours worked. An employee may voluntarily waive this requirement if they work six (6) hours or less. 

To be a code compliant meal break: 

  • The employee must receive, at least, a 30-minute meal break.  If the break is longer than 2 hours, click here to learn about split-shift premiums.

  • The employer must not interrupt or interfere with your meal break.

  • The employee is free to leave the premises.

Employees who work more than ten (10) hours in a single shift are entitled to receive two (2) thirty (30) minute meal breaks. The employee may waive their second meal break if their shift is twelve (12) hours or less and the first meal break was not waived. 
 

What happens if the employee doesn't get a 30-minute uninterrupted meal period?


If an employee worked more than five (5) hours and did not get a meal break, the employee is entitled to an extra hour of “premium pay” in addition to the wages earned while working through the meal break. Employees may only receive a max of 1-hour of premium pay per day for missed meal breaks.

California Minimum Wage Requirements

2020 

  • $12 / hr (25 or fewer employees)

  • $13 / hr (26 or more employees)

 

2019 

  • $11 / hr (25 or fewer employees)

  • $12 / hr (26 or more employees)

2018

  • $10.50 / hr (25 or fewer employees)

  • $11 / hr (26 or more employees)     

 

2017 

  • $10 / hr (25 or fewer employees)     

  • $10.50 / hr (26 or more employees)

Rest Breaks

In California, all non-exempt employees must be “authorized and permitted” to take a ten (10) minute rest break for every four (4) hours worked, or for working a “major fraction” of four hours. Anything over two (2) hours has been held to be a “major fraction.” However, if the employee is not scheduled to work at least 3.5 hours, then the employee is not entitled to receive any breaks.  

An employee is entitled to be relieved of all duties during these rest breaks and is also entitled to receive compensation for each rest break. For rest breaks, unlike meal breaks where the employer is required to ensure an employee takes the break, all the employer need do is authorize and permit the employee to take the rest break. The employee is responsible for ensuring they are taking these breaks.

What happens if the employee doesn't get a 30-minute uninterrupted rest period?


If an employee did not receive a statutory meal break, the employee is entitled to an extra hour of “premium pay."  Employees may only receive a max of 1-hour of premium pay per day for missed rest breaks.

 

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