What Are The Meal Period Requirements For Employees In California?

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Jeffrey L. Hogue - Employment & Labor - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Jeffrey L. Hogue

Located in San Diego, CAHogue and Belong

Phone: 619-238-4720
Fax: 619-270-9856

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According to California law, meal breaks are dependent on what type of employee you are and how many hours you work. Employers must provide their employees a paid rest break every four hours worked, and an unpaid meal break for every five hours worked. Additionally, a 10-hour workday entitles an employee to a second half-hour meal break.

During the uninterrupted meal break, the employer must also relieve the employee of all duties and permit them to leave the premises during that time — if they wish. It is possible for employees to waive their meal break. But employers must not pressure them into doing so. Meal break waivers do not have to be in writing, a verbal agreement will suffice. However, it is in everyone’s best interest that the employer put the agreement in writing.

Additional Break Requirements

Work circumstances also affect these laws. For example, employers must allow for agricultural workers to take five-minute breaks under shade when the temperature exceeds 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This law also protects those unlawfully employed, such as illegal immigrants.  

Employer Penalties

It is also the law in California that if an employer does not allow their employee a meal break, they must pay their employee for one work hour at that employee’s normal payrate. The same penalty applies even for a standard rest break.

Avoiding The Meal Break

Employers often try to schedule employees for less work time in order to avoid providing these breaks. They may also consider the employee “off duty” at various points of their shift to try to circumvent the meal period requirements. Systematic defects in your breaks may entitle you to a case against your employer. Often this will occur in cases where, for example, employees work more than eight hours a shift, or when they are scheduled 5.5 hours rather than six.

These cases require detailed documentation of employee breaks, meals and pay. They are often quite complex. If you believe your employer is at fault for your missed breaks and you want to take legal action, it is important to contact an employment law attorney as soon as possible to start building a case. 

About The Firm

Attorneys Jeffrey L. Hogue and Tyler J. Belong provide employment law, civil litigation and other types of representation throughout the San Diego area. They have been recognized as litigators of the year and have successfully helped their clients achieve multimillion-dollar settlements.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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