California Meal Break Requirements

Stressed male doctor with his hand against a window

“What’s for lunch?” It’s a common question coworkers may ask each other during the workday. Whether someone is planning to go out and grab a meal, have leftovers, or another option, it’s essential, and the law, for employees who work a certain amount of hours to be given a meal break.

Unsure if you qualify for a meal break at your workplace? Here is what you need to know:

Meal Breaks vs. Rest Breaks

The first factor that must be considered is whether an employee is entitled to a meal break, rest break, or both. A meal break is defined as a minimum 30 minute period of time, that is unpaid, where the employee is not required to work. This break must be given to an employee before the end of their fifth hour of work. An employee may only waive this meal break if they do not work more than six hours for a shift and the employee and employer mutually agree upon it.

If the employee is working more than 10 hours for a shift, they must receive a second 30-minute meal break. An employee can waive this meal break if their shift is no longer than 12 hours and if the employee took their first meal break and didn’t waive it.

A rest break is defined as a 10 minute, uninterrupted time off work for nonexempt employees who work at least three-and-a-half hours.

Consequences if a Meal Break is Missed

If an employee is forced to miss their meal break, the employer could face consequences. State law says that for each day an employee is forced to miss their meal break, the employer is required to pay the employee an hour of pay at their regular hourly rate. An employee has up to three years to file a claim for these unpaid wages.

If an employer fails to give an employee a rest break and meal break, they are owed two hours of pay at their regular hourly rate.

Have You Been Denied Meal Breaks?

Being consistently denied meal breaks is disheartening for employees. Not only is a meal break a time to refuel their body physically, but mentally, it provides a rest from the workday.

If your employer has not given you due meal breaks, you have every right to seek proper compensation for that time lost. The California employment lawyers at Strauss & Strauss, APC are here to help you fight your case. Get started right away by reaching out for a free consultation. (805) 303-8115

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