Meal and Rest Breaks– Know Your Rights

By Jennifer Santillan, Whitehead Employment Law

What is a Rest Break?

A rest break is a short, paid period of time allotted to non-exempt employees working over three and a half hours each workday. Under California wage and hour law, employers must allow non-exempt employees to take a paid rest break for ten minutes after every four hours of work, “or major fraction thereof.” Through case law, this has come to mean working over three and a half hours each shift. Employees are entitled to uninterrupted rest breaks, meaning they should be relieved of all duties during their ten-minute rest period.

 How Many Rest Breaks Am I Entitled To?

Rest breaks are allotted based on the number of hours an employee works per shift. The minimum number of hours required to earn a rest break is three and a half. If an employee works at least three and a half hours, that employee is entitled to one paid, ten-minute rest break. If an employee works between six to ten hours in a workday, the employee is entitled to two paid rest breaks. Finally, if the employee works over ten hours in one workday, the employee is entitled to three paid, ten-minute rest breaks. These breaks must be spread out according to the employee’s work schedule; they cannot be combined and taken all at once.

What If My Employer Has Not Given Me a Rest Break?

If an employee is not provided with an uninterrupted rest break (either because they were required to work through their break or were not given a break altogether), the employee is entitled to one full hour of pay at their regular pay rate, or alternatively, another uninterrupted rest break.

Meal Breaks

What is a Meal Break?

A meal break is a longer, unpaid period of time allotted to non-exempt employees so that they may eat. In California, employers are required to provide non-exempt employees with at least thirty minutes of uninterrupted time for every five hours of work. However, just like rest breaks, any employee working less than six hours has the ability to waive his or her meal period, in exchange for an additional hour of pay.

How Many Meal Breaks Am I Entitled To?

Employees who work more than five hours in a workday are entitled to one, thirty-minute meal break. Employees who work more than ten hours in a day must be given a second thirty-minute meal break.  If the employee is working between ten to twelve hours, he or she may waive their right to a second meal break in exchange for one hour of pay. However, the second meal break can only be waived if the employee actually took the first meal break and did not waive it.

What If I’m Required To Work Through My Meal Breaks?

Generally, employers are required to provide employees with uninterrupted meal breaks, meaning employees are relieved of all duties and have the ability to leave the premises during their break. However, in some industries, this is not always possible. In such cases, there must be a signed writing between the employer and employee acknowledging the employee will be working during his or her meal break. In exchange, the employee is entitled to one full hour of pay at their regular pay rate. The employee thereafter has the right to revoke the agreement at any time.

What If My Employer Has Not Given Me a Meal Break?

If an employee is not provided with an uninterrupted, thirty-minute meal period for every five hours of work, that employee is entitled to one full hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of pay.

Have a potential case regarding your employer’s meal and rest break violations?

California’s meal and rest break laws apply differently depending on the type of industry you are in. If you have questions about California’s meal and rest break requirements or believe your employer may be violating these laws, contact us today.

Whitehead Employment Law is a premier firm with a wealth of legal talent dedicated to labor and employment law. We have settled and tried cases winning millions of dollars in awards for clients whose employers have failed to reimburse employees for work-related expenses.  Many of these types of situations are ideal for class action treatment. 

Contact us at Whitehead Employment Law today at 949-936-4001.  Consultations are free and confidential.

  1. 8 California Code of Regulations (“C.C.R”) 11040, section 12 (Rest Periods).
  2. Brinker Rest. Corp. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal. 4th 1004, 1029 (2012).
  3. Brinker, 53 Cal. 4th at 1029.
  4. 8 California Code of Regulations (“C.C.R”) 11040, section 12 (Rest Periods).
  5. Brinker, 53 Cal. 4th at 1029.
  6. 8 California Code of Regulations (“C.C.R”) 11040, section 12 (Rest Periods); California Labor Code § 226.7.
  7. California Labor Code § 512; California Code of Regulations (“C.C.R”) 11040, section 11 (Meal Periods).
  8. California Labor Code § 512.
  9. Brinker, 53 Cal. 4th at 1034; California Labor Code § 512.
  10. Id.
  11. Id.
  12. Brinker, 53 Cal. 4th at 1035; California Code of Regulations (“C.C.R”) 11040, section 11 (Meal Periods).
  13. California Labor Code § 512.