California Meal and Rest Break Requirements for Employees

At Romero Law, our experienced Pasadena employment law attorneys know California employees are protected by some of the strictest employment laws in the U.S. Still, workers here experience some of the highest rates of employer wage theft in the country. 

One of the most common ways this occurs is by shortening required break times, pressuring or incentivizing employees to work through them, or making it challenging for them to take breaks. These scenarios are forms of wage theft under California law, costing California workers an estimated $2 billion annually.

California Meal and Rest Break Requirements for Employees

When Are Workers Entitled to Meal Breaks in California?

Under California law, a meal break is an unpaid, uninterrupted period of at least 30 minutes when employees are free of their duties.

The timing of meal breaks is determined by the hours an employee worked during that shift. Nonexempt employees — workers paid hourly — are legally entitled to one 30-minute meal break for every five hours of work. Technically, the break should come before the fifth hour of work ends. Employees who work more than ten hours get a second 30-minute meal break before reaching that tenth hour of work.

During this period, employees are free from any work responsibilities. They are entitled to come and go from work — for meals, personal business, or even running errands — for at least 30 minutes, as their positions allow.

In California, most workers covered by meal break protections are nonexempt or hourly workers. However, many exempt or salaried employees who work in certain professions and meet minimum earning requirements must also receive them.

If your California employer violates your right to take meal and rest breaks as required by law, contact our experienced Los Angeles County wage and hour employment law attorneys to discuss your unique circumstances today.

Our employment law firm and bilingual staff offer services in both English and Spanish and are available to discuss your case during a free consultation by calling 626-396-9900 or contacting us online.

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