Employment – Meal and Rest Breaks
California employees are entitled to meal and rest breaks by law.
California employees are entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes within first five hours since the start of the day’s work. For example, if an employee starts his work at 8 o’clock in the morning, the employer must provide the employee a 30-minute meal break before 1 o’clock in the afternoon. During meal breaks, employees are relieved of all duty and must not be interrupted for any work-related reason. If an employer exercises his control over the employee or orders the employee to be on duty, this interrupted time should be counted towards work hours and paid for appropriately.
If an employee works less than six hours a day, the 30-minute meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee. However, if an employee works over 10 hours a day, the employer must provide another 30-minute meal period to the employee. This second meal break must be granted before the end of the employee’s 10th hour of work. If the employee works less than 12 hours a day or there is an agreement between the employer and the employee, the second meal period may be waived.
If the nature of the work prevents an employee from taking an off-duty meal period, an on-duty meal period may be offered instead upon mutual agreement. Employers must have the agreement with the employee in writing, and on-duty meal period must be paid at an appropriate rate. Additionally, if an employee works at least three and a half hours a day, he or she must be guaranteed with a 10-minute break every four hours.
It is against the law to not allow break periods, and employers who do not allow breaks may face costly consequences. If an employee was not given a meal or rest break, the employer must compensate for a wage corresponding to one regular work hour. If an employee was given neither a meal break nor a rest break, the employer must compensate for a wage corresponding to two regular work hours.
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