April 4, 2023

A Comprehensive Guide to California Meal and Rest Break Laws for Employees

Many workers in California need clarification on what breaks they are legally entitled to take under California law. Some employers use this lack of knowledge to their advantage, forcing employees to work when they should be able to take a break to rest or eat. Because of this, it is beneficial for employees to know what the laws are so they can advocate for themselves. At Blake Jones Law, PC, we represent California workers that have been taken advantage of and help them claim their legal rights. If your employer has not obliged with California employment laws, contact our firm to learn how we can help.

Meal Break Regulations

Pursuant to California Labor Code §512, employers cannot mandate that an employee work for more than five hours without providing a meal period of at least 30 minutes unless the parties mutually agree to waive the lunch period and the employee works no longer than 6 hours total. The meal period can be unpaid if the employee is considered off-duty. For employees that work more than 10 hours, the employer must provide a second meal break for no less than 30 minutes. An employee can waive the second meal break requirement if:

  • The employee and employer mutually consent to waive the requirement
  • The first meal break was not waived
  • The employee will not exceed 12 hours of work that day

There are some circumstances under which employees can take on-duty meal breaks. Employers may not permit employees to combine their meal breaks with their rest periods for a longer break.  Due to the requirements and conditions surrounding these types of breaks, it is best to speak with a California employment law attorney before agreeing to an on-duty meal break. There are also special rules for certain types of employees covered by collective bargaining agreements, including baking industry employees and motion picture industry employees, as well as certain types of workers, including domestic and farm workers. 

Break Regulations

According to the State of California’s Department of Industrial Relations, under California’s Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders, employees are authorized a break period that, optimally, should be taken in the middle of a work period. This rule does not apply to employees that work less than 3.5 hours per day. 

Breaks should be for a minimum of a net 10 minutes for every 4 hours worked or any major fraction thereof. This is usually interpreted to mean a minimum of 2 hours. Rest periods are counted as time worked, and the employee should be paid for that time. Some exceptions to this rule exist for certain employees, including employees of 24-hour residential care facilities and on-site occupations, such as construction. 

Employees must be relieved of all work during their rest periods.  Employers may not permit employees to combine multiple rest periods into a longer break.  

Speak With A California Employment Law Attorney

When your employer has violated your rights under California law, you need an attorney to fight for you. At Blake Jones Law, PC, we are experienced at representing employees in wage and hour lawsuits. Contact our firm today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. We may be reached by calling 954-523-1112 or via our contact page.