Does It Matter When You Take Your Breaks Under California Law?

Does It Matter When You Take Your Breaks Under California LawCalifornia is one of the few states in the country that mandates rest breaks and meal breaks for employees. Employees are allowed to take meal breaks of at least 30 minutes, as well as ten-minute rest breaks. Not only does California law mandate these breaks, but it also determines when these breaks should be taken.

First Meal Break

Under section 512, subdivision (a), of the California Labor Code, and the Industrial Welfare
Commission Wage Orders, any employee who works for more than five hours is required to receive a meal break of at least 30 minutes. While an employer does not need to force employees to take this time away from work, it must at least be offered.

The meal break must be provided no later than the employee’s fifth hour of work. If the employee is only working for a maximum of six hours, the employee and employer can agree to waive the meal break period. However, meal breaks cannot be waived without mutual consent.

Second Meal Break

If an employee is working for more than 10 hours in a given day, the employer must offer a second, 30-minute meal break. This break must come before the employee’s tenth hour of work.

For example, suppose a nurse is scheduled to work a 12-hour shift beginning at 8 a.m. Her first meal break must come no later than 1:00 p.m., and her second meal break must come before 6:00 p.m.

Employees can also waive their second meal break if both the employer and employee consent, the employee has not worked more than 12 hours that day, and the employee did not waive the first meal break.

Rest Breaks

In addition to meal breaks, California law allows employees to receive a paid, ten-minute break whenever that person works for more than 3.5 hours. Employees accrue 10-minute rest periods for each four hours of work or “major fraction thereof.”

In practice, this means that a person who works for 3.5 to 6 hours in a day will receive one 10-minute rest break. A person who works between 6 and 10 hours will receive two 10-minute rest breaks, and a person who works between 10 hours and 14 hours will receive three 10-minute rest breaks.

As a general rule, employers should allow employees to take these rest breaks in the middle of a four-hour period. However, the timing of these breaks can change if it is impractical.

Employees who work an 8-hour day should have a schedule that looks something like this:

  • 2 hours of work
  • 10-minute rest break
  • 2 hours of work
  • 30-minute meal break
  • 2 hours of work
  • 10-minute rest break
  • 2 hours of work

If the schedule deviates too much from the norm, employers may be liable for violating California’s labor laws. For instance, an employer can’t require employees to take their meal and rest breaks all at once.

If your employer is failing to provide state-mandated rest or meal breaks, or is requiring you to take your breaks in an unreasonable manner, you may be owed additional wages. Contact us to speak with an experienced wage law lawyer in Sacramento today.

Published By:

Labor Law Office, APC

2740 Fulton Avenue, Suite 220
Sacramento, CA 95821

Office: (916) 446-4502
Email: [email protected]
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2017-12-13T21:46:30+00:00 May 13th, 2016|General Labor Law, Wage and Hour|