Meal and Rest Break Laws

California Employment Law Firm

California legislation goes beyond the federal wage and hour laws in the Fair Labor Standards Act by requiring employers to provide meal breaks and rest breaks for employees who have worked for a specified time span.

At Potter Handy, our lawyers represent California employees who were refused the meal breaks and rest periods they are entitled to.

Meal Breaks

Anytime an employee works more than five hours, he or she has the right to an unpaid meal break for 30 minutes. The employee must be relieved of all duties during this period and is free to leave the premises. For violation of this law, the employee is entitled to be paid for the missed break plus a premium of one-hour compensation at the regular rate. (Every day the employee misses a meal break it will count as a separate violation of the law.)

The meal break should be taken within the first five working hours and it is the duty of the employer to ensure that the meal break is taken on time. If the employee so chooses, an employee can forfeit the right to a meal break but only if the shift does not last longer than six hours. In addition, if the shift exceeds ten hours a second meal break is also required.

In meal break cases, overtime claims can often be inferred. The employee may end up working more than 40 hours a week where the employee is told to clock out for a meal break but is expected to continue working. In such a situation, the employee will be entitled to recover, at a time and a half, accrued overtime pay and the premium penalty for the missed meal break.

Rest Periods

An employee is entitled to a 10 minute paid break for every four hours on the clock. The break should be given in the middle of the four-hour cycle (after two hours of work), as much as possible. So, an employee who is working an eight-hour shift is entitled to two paid ten-minute rest breaks and one unpaid meal break of 30 minutes. (As with meal breaks, the penalty for not giving a rest period is that the employee is owed one hour of pay for every day a break is denied.)

Violations of the rest period can be difficult to prove, because employers are only required to make the break available. Employees are not required to take them by law. It can be difficult to establish in court whether an employer adequately communicated that a break was freely available, and whether an employee waived a break time knowingly and voluntarily.

Potter Handy’s wage and hour lawyers have extensive experience in labor law and other civil cases, including class actions focused on employer infringement of the law around the workforce. If you believe a meal break or rest break has been wrongly denied to you, contact Potter Handy to have your claim reviewed by an attorney.