Meal and Rest Breaks
California employees are often entitled to specific meal and rest breaks as described below. California employers must provide these breaks or their employees may be entitled to additional pay. If you have questions about breaks, contact us by calling (415) 434-3400 or you can schedule an in-person consultation.
Most non-exempt employees in California are entitled to the following:
- For every five hours worked in a day, employees are entitled to a thirty-minute uninterrupted meal break. Employees may voluntarily give up their meal breaks, but only if they work six hours or less AND they agree in writing that the meal break has been waived.
- If an employee worked ten hours or more in a workday, they are entitled to two thirty minute uninterrupted meal breaks. They can give up the second meal break, but only if they work less than twelve hours AND actually took the first meal break. The employer has to make sure that the employee actually are provided the correct number of meal breaks and record those breaks in time records.
Employees who are not provided with a meal break accordingly must be paid an extra hour of pay for every meal break not provided, every meal break less than 30 minutes, and every meal break that was interrupted. The extra hour(s) of pay is in addition to wages due for all the time actually worked. The total amount of additional pay can be significant.
California law states that all non-exempt employees must be “authorized and permitted” to take a paid ten minute rest break for every four hours worked, or a “major fraction” of four hours. (A “major fraction” of four hours has been interpreted to mean two hours.) Also, employees must work at least 3.5 hours in a day to be entitled to any break at all. Therefore, employees should get:
- one 10 minute break if you work between 3.5 and 6 hours,
- two ten minute breaks if you work between 6 and 10 hours, and
- three 10 minute breaks if you work between 10 and 14 hours.
Unlike meal breaks, the employer is not required to record rest breaks in the time records. Employees are entitled to pay for their time spent on rest breaks.
The employer must pay a premium wage if the employee works more than four hours (or a “major fraction” of four hours) and is not provided with a rest break. That premium pay is an extra hour of wages.