Do California Labor Laws Allow Meal and Rest Breaks?

California Meal Break Law Explained by Los Angeles Employment Attorneys

The California labor laws and federal laws mandating employee meal and rest breaks differ quite a bit. Under federal law alone, employers are not required to offer their employees meal or rest breaks.

However, this is not true for our state. California’s meal break law requires employers to offer meal and rest beaks to their employees, some of which are paid, under California Legislature §226.7(b) of the California Labor Code enacted in 2001. If meal and rest breaks have been withheld from you on the job in the state of California, the Los Angeles employment lawyers of Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob are prepared to help you assert your employee rights and fight for an accommodating work environment.

What is California Meal Break Law?

According to the California’s meal break law, employees must provide the following at work:

  • Employers must offer an unpaid 30-minute long meal break to most non-exempt employees, regardless if they are paid hourly or by salary, if they work a shift lasting between five and ten hours.
  • An employee in Los Angeles and throughout the state has the option to waive the 30-minute long meal break if his or her workday is less than five hours long.
  • Employees are entitled to another unpaid 30-minute meal break if their workday is over ten hours long.
  • Employees who work twelve hours or more may waive one unpaid 30-minute meal break.
  • Employers must schedule lunch breaks in such a way that the employee is free from all work duties.
  • Employers cannot impede employees who wants to take their meal break; however, an employee can choose to continue working, but the employee must be paid overtime if he or she volunteers to do so.
  • Paid 10-minute rest breaks must be given for every four hours worked.

There are a few exceptions to these rules, as some jobs do not allow duties to be passed on to other employee. For instance, a 24-hour convenience store might have only three employees to cover three shifts. In this instance, the employee would take a paid lunch while working.

If you have questions regarding whether your employer may be violating California meal break law, rest break policies or your employee rights, speak with a Los Angeles employment attorney at Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob for free legal advice.

Landmark California Meal Break Law Case

The California Labor Commissioner held in a landmark case namely, Hartwig v. Orchard Commercial, Inc., that the additional hour of pay an employee may recover under Labor Code §226.7 for missed meal or rest periods is a penalty, not a wage, and is subject to a one year statute of limitations.

There is a line of decisions after the landmark case Hartwig, which either held claim of missed meal or rest periods a penalty, not a wage or the other way round. It is a huge controversy in California whether claim of missed meal or rest periods is a penalty or wage, since the period of limitation for the claim is determined based on the settlement of the controversy.

Until such a settlement is reached, California employers must be cautious by taking adequate care in complying with rest and meal period requirements as well as staying updated on new meal break law developments.

What Should I Do If I am Denied Breaks at Work in California?

A California employer must pay an employee a full hour’s wage each time a meal break or a rest break is missed. If you feel your employer is withholding the meal and rest breaks you are entitled to under the California labor laws, seek legal help from our Los Angeles employment lawyers today. Filing a wage dispute claim for this time could help recover compensation for the unpaid wages you should have received.

Speak with a Los Angeles employment attorney at Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob. We will use our experience and qualifications to protect your California employee rights.