What Californian Employers Should Know About Meal & Rest Breaks


Companies in California and throughout the United States offer both meal breaks and rest breaks to employees. A meal break is a period in a worker’s shift in which they obtain uninterrupted time off to eat, rest, run errands, or anything else, while a rest break allows employees to take a quick break from their job duties. Once an employee is on their rest or meal break, they are officially relieved from their duties until they return to work. 

The following are several facts about meal breaks and rest breaks employers in California should know: 

  • Employees have a minimum of 10 consecutive, uninterrupted minutes during a rest break – In general, a rest break in California lasts at least 10 minutes. The number of rest breaks a worker receives depends on how many hours they have worked. According to state law, the first rest period is offered after an employer works at least 3.5 hours, the next break is offered after 6 hours of work, and another rest break is earned after a minimum of 10 hours. After working 10 hours, the workers will continue to receive a rest period after working at least four hours. 

  • Rest breaks are paid – Companies are required by law to pay for these quick breaks. However, employers cannot interrupt a worker’s rest period just because they are being paid during that time. 

  • Employees are not required to take a rest break – Workers have the option of skipping their rest breaks. Therefore, employers cannot encourage or force employees to take breaks. Regardless of whether an employee takes a rest break or not, Californian employers must provide such breaks. 

  • Meal breaks are unpaid – On the other hand, employees are not paid during their meal breaks, which generally last a minimum of 30 minutes. An employee must take a meal break after working at least five hours. If an employee worked up to six hours or less, a worker may choose to give up meal breaks. 

  • Employees are responsible for taking meal breaks – In 2012, a California law passed to ensure employees receive adequate meal breaks and give them the responsibility to take such breaks. Hence, it is up to the employee to decide whether to take a meal break. 

  • Meal breaks and rest breaks cannot be combined – Meal breaks and rest breaks are separate to provide employees with enough rest throughout their shift to prevent fatigue and burnout. Combining meal breaks and rest breaks is against the law. 

  • Employees can request an on-duty meal break – If an employee’s job duties prevent them from taking a break, they can ask for an on-duty meal period from their employer. This agreement must be documented in writing to prevent any future legal issues. 

  • Employees can sue their employer for violating meal break and rest break laws in California – If an employer refuses to provide employees with adequate breaks or otherwise violates any state law on rest and meal breaks, workers can file a complaint against the company. 

If your boss refuses to offer you the breaks you are entitled to, look no further than Polaris Law Group to protect your rights and your best interests. With more than 25 years of experience, our employment lawyer in Hollister can help you hold your employer accountable and obtain your entitled compensation.

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If you are dealing with an employment law matter in Hollister or within the surrounding area, call Polaris Law Group at (888) 796-4010 or contact us online today to schedule an initial consultation.