As an employee, you have the right to rest and meal breaks. If your employer fails to honor this right, they might owe you money. Find out more with Kyle Todd on Know your Rights: Your Right to Take Meal and Rest Breaks.

This is Know Your Rights with Kyle Todd, and today I’m going to be talking about the right to take meal and rest breaks in California.

So just to start with the basics, every employee in California has the right to take a meal break for every five hours they work. 

This means if you work at least five hours, you should be given a 30 minute work free meal break. If you work 10 hours or more, you should actually be given a second meal period. 

The other type of break is a rest break. This is a 10 minute break, again, work free. You shouldn’t be required to work during these breaks and you get one 10 minute break for every four hours of work or every major fraction of four hours.

So if you don’t get your proper breaks or you’re forced to work through breaks, you should be getting paid a break penalty for every day that you’re not able to take those breaks. 

Break Penalty Exceptions 

Most employees in California are entitled to these breaks. There are some exceptions. 

The first exception is if you’re exempt under the law. It’s like if you’re a white collar professional, who generally dictates what you do and how you do it, then you don’t have to be given these breaks. 

Another exception is if you waive your break. So for example, you can waive your meal break in very limited scenarios only if you work more than five hours, but less than six. You can waive that right if you’re working less than six hours. 

The same goes if you’re working more than 10 hours, but less than 12, you may be able to waive in writing your second meal period.

What Qualifies as a Break?

Breaks need to be duty free. Whether it’s a meal or rest breaks, you shouldn’t be required to work during your breaks. Otherwise, it’s effectively not a break.

 If you’re asked to attend to clients or customers or have work meetings during breaks, it’s effectively not a break under the law and you need to be paid a penalty.

What Happens if Youre Denied a Break?

Some employers have a good break policy on paper in the employee handbook, but when it comes down to it, they put so much work on their employees and they give zero relief to actually be able to step away from the job and have someone else fill in for them for 30 minutes, that effectively they’re not able to take those breaks. 

If they’re systematically prevented from taking duty free breaks, the law recognizes that that’s a violation and they should be paid penalties for that.

Need Legal Advice? 

So in summary, the right to a meal and rest break is very fundamental in California. It’s protected for most employees in the state. 

The whole idea is that you should be able to take breaks throughout your day to give you freedom to not think about work. If you have issues with your breaks, I’m proud that our law firm helps to enforce this right in California. 

So if you have a situation where you’re not getting proper breaks, contact our office. We’ll see if you might have a case.

This has been Know Your Rights with Kyle Todd. I appreciate you watching, and I hope you learned something.

Leave a Reply