California Labor Laws: Employee Breaks and Meals
California labor laws for breaks and meal periods (more commonly referred to as lunch breaks) require that the employer provide non-exempt employees with a 30 minute uninterrupted meal break after 5 hours of work (unless the employee's workday is completed within 6 hours), and a 10 minute break time after each 3 ½ hours of work. Such 10 minute worker break times do have to be paid by the employer. California labor law on rest periods and meals provides that should an employer fail to give an employee their required meal or rest period, such employee must be compensated in the amount of one hour's wage.
California employee break laws relating to lunch breaks provide that if the type of job performed by the employee does not allow a 30 minute uninterrupted break, the employee may enter into a written agreement to take an on duty lunch break. There are certain terms that must be contained in this agreement pursuant to California Code of Regulations, Title 8, §11040. Most jobs, under California rest and meal break laws, do not qualify for “on duty” meal breaks. It is clear that under CA labor laws, meal breaks can simply not be waived by employers without a written, revocable agreement with the employee.
California Rest and Meal Break Laws: An Evolution
California rest and meal break laws have evolved over the past decade in California . Employers must simply make a meal break available, but California law dictates that employers are not required to compel employee breaks. This, however, may soon be changing as the leading case for California labor law meal breaks is Brinker Restaurant Corp. v Superior Court of San Diego County which may be granted review by the California Supreme Court. If review is granted, California labor law break periods may be much more strongly enforced in favor of the employee.
In another widely watched case, Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. relating to lunch breaks, California employees benefited when the courts decided that missed meal breaks are considered a wage and not a penalty. This case was a very important decision for employees because a wage under California labor law meal break rules can be collected by employees for 3 years under the California labor code and sometimes 4 years under the California unfair competition statute, whereas a penalty is only collectable for 1 year.
Frequently Asked Questions: California Labor Law Meals and Breaks
Can my employer require I take my meal break at the beginning or end of my shift?
California employers may not require that employees take their meal break at the beginning or end of the work shift. This practice is illegal and employers are required to provide all non exempt employees with a 30 minute uninterrupted meal break after 5 hours of work unless their total shift is 6 hours or less.
My employer has indicated that my position does not permit an “uninterrupted” meal break, even if I work my full 8 hour schedule. Is this legal?
In California , work shifts over five hours require a 30-minute meal break which is uninterrupted. There are very few special circumstances where the job itself must dictate no “uninterrupted” meal break period be offered, such as a security position where you would leave your post unguarded completely to take this 30 minute break. It should be mentioned that if you work with other individuals who could cover your position for 30 minutes, your employer will not qualify for providing only an “on duty” meal period.
My work schedule is the alternative work week of 4 “10 hour shifts” each week. What breaks and meal periods am I entitled to according to California law?
Even though you work an alternative work week, you are still entitled to a 30 minutes uninterrupted lunch after 5 hours of work and a 10 minute break after 3.5 hours of work.
If you are uncertain about the meal period and rest breaks being provided by your employer, our California labor law attorneys are available to review your potential claim.