California Work Break Laws: How Much Do You Know?

Work break laws in California are pretty cut and dry. However, many employers continue to abuse their rights and neglect to provide their employees with what is lawfully owed. As the number one employment attorney in the Los Angeles region, Hershey Law is here to protect your rights.

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at work break laws to help you understand what is and what is not acceptable.


How many hours are you scheduled?

The first step in determining what you are entitled to for a break starts with the number of hours you are scheduled. The California Labor Code states that if you are scheduled to work more than five consecutive hours in one day, you are entitled to a thirty minute meal break. However, an employee may agree to waive the break if they are not scheduled for more than six hours.


Meal breaks versus rest breaks

Although similar, meal and rest breaks are much different when the law is concerned. For every four hours worked, a minimum of ten minutes should be allotted as a rest break. Rest breaks differ from meals as they count as time worked. Therefore, your employer must pay for rest breaks, whereas meal breaks may be unpaid. Because the employee is being paid, the company policies remain in place.

On the other hand, meal breaks are generally unpaid, and employers may not require employees to be available during the break. For example, if you are on a meal break and the employer asks you to come back early to address a situation, this is legally equivalent to denying you the rest time owed.


Exempt versus non-exempt employees.

It’s important to note that California work break laws apply only to non-exempt, non-contract positions. If you’re not familiar with this term, an individual is considered non-exempt when they qualify for overtime in excess of working 40 hours per work. For example, most salaried employees are considered exempt. Even if they work over 40 hours per week, they will receive the same pay.


What can you do?

In California, it is allowable to sue your employer for denying you a meal or rest break. In most wage and hour lawsuits, the employer is held responsible and unpaid or denied time is owed to the employee. For instance, if you worked 40 hours per week, 8 hours per day, for a company for one year with two weeks of vacation but never had a 30 minute meal break, that would be 250 hours of meal breaks owed.


If you believe you were taken advantage of through abuse of work break laws in California, contact our team at Hershey Law today to schedule your consultation (310) 929-2190.