Under the California Wage Orders:

Employees must be given 10-minutes of rest for every 4 hours of work.

The employer must allow the employee to take a meal period after no more than 5 hours of work, unless the work day will be completed within 6 hours.

The meal period must be at least 30 minutes, during which time the employee must be completely relieved of their duties.

If employees are required to eat at their work stations, they must be compensated for the time.

If the employee is not provided with the required meal or rest period, the employer must pay the employee an additional hour of pay.

Under California law, employers must provide their employees half-hour duty-free meal periods and paid rest periods.

California employers routinely violate employee’s rights to meal and periods. The most common violations occur in the restaurant and trucking industries. But, no industry is spared. If an employer can cheat an employee out of their meal and rest period time, the employer makes more money. Most employers have meal and rest period “policies” that “require” meal and rest periods. But, in reality they push so much work onto their employees that there is simply no time for meal and rest periods. If an employee stops work to take a break, they are subject to discipline for not keeping up with the work. An experienced employment law attorney can stop an employer in their tracks.

California Court of Appeal Distinguished Between Meal and Rest Breaks

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Under California Labor Code Section 226.7

  • Employers are prohibited from requiring employees to work during meal and/or rest periods mandated under the Wage Orders.
  • This code section provides monetary penalties for employees required to work during meal and/or rest periods.
  • In the State of California, a meal period is one during which the employee is free from all duty and free to leave the employer’s premises during that time.

Under Labor Code Section 512

  • An employee may not be required to work for more than five hours without being provided a meal period of no less than 30 minutes.
  • If an employer requires an employee to clock out for meal periods but keep working then the employee is entitled to be paid, presuming lunch periods are unpaid (which is often the case.)
  • An employer may not work an employee for more than 10 hours per day without providing a second 30-minute meal period, unless the shift is 12 hours or less.
  • If the employee works between 10 and 12 hours, the meal period may be waived.
  • An employee can be required to stay at the employer’s place of business during their 10 minute rest periods.
  • An eight hour shift is mandated to have two 10-minute rest periods, although employees can waive them if they wish.

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