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California’s Meal and Rest Laws 2019

Posted on August 6, 2019 | Wage & Hour Laws

California is one of the best places to live as an employee in America. California’s employment laws generally favor employees, with extensive medical leave benefits and strong anti-discrimination laws. California also has meal and rest break requirements all employers must obey, or else face penalties. Understanding California’s current meal and rest break rules could help you protect your rights to take breaks as a worker.

An Overview of Employee Rest Periods in California

California’s rest rules are better for employees than the federal requirements. If you are a nonexempt worker in California, state law entitles you to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break from work to eat if your shift will last longer than five hours. In addition to this mandatory meal break, you will also receive a 10-minute work-free rest break for every four hours you are on the clock. If you work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., for example, your employer must give you at least two paid 10-minute breaks and one 30-minute meal break.

If you work longer than 10 hours in one day, the law entitles you to two 30-minute meal breaks. Mandatory meal and rest breaks cannot have work-related interruptions. As an employee, the law entitles you to take meal and rest breaks without having to deal with work-related tasks, such as helping customers or answering emails. Rest breaks are separate from meal breaks; an employer cannot force you to combine them. Your employer must also allow you to take your first meal break before 2:00 p.m., if you have multiple.

Penalties for Breaking the Rules

If your boss does not comply with California’s meal and rest break rules, he or she could face legal penalties. Your employer may also owe you compensation. It is a good idea for employers in California to monitor workers’ rest and meal breaks to make sure they take them. Failure to adhere to the state’s meal and rest break rules is a violation of the law that could result in a few different consequences.

  • Fines for violating state law
  • Criminal charges for serious violations
  • Restitution to all employees who missed meal or rest breaks

The most common consequence of breaking California’s meal and rest break rules as an employer is having to pay employees restitution. The law entitles employees to one hour’s worth of wages for each day the employer violated the rest break and/or one hour of wages for each day of a meal break violation. It is possible to receive double payments if your employer violated both rest requirements in a day. Speak to a Meal and rest violation attorney in Los Angeles if you have additional questions regarding these penalties.

What If Employees Waive Their Meal Breaks?

California’s meal break law has a few exceptions. Some employees have the right to waive their meal breaks, but this should only happen occasionally, not daily. This exception is only possible if the employee will complete his or her shift in six hours. If an employee who will only work six hours wishes to waive his or her meal break, the employee should express the desire in writing.

Another exception exists if the employee’s job is of a nature that prevents the ability to take an off-duty meal break. In these situations, an employer would not violate the rules by authorizing the employee to take a 30-minute on-duty meal period. If this is the case in a workplace, the employee or employer should put this agreement in writing.

Under California law, workers could face repercussions for skipping meal breaks or taking meal breaks that are shorter than what the law mandates. An employer has the right to reprimand or otherwise discipline employees that do not stick to company rest and meal break rules. It is a manager’s responsibility to ensure adherence to company break policies. An employer may use skipped breaks against the employee during performance evaluations. Employers should encourage employees to report any issues regarding rest and meal break violations among coworkers or supervisors to the human resources department.