Is my employer required to pay for my meal break and rest breaks?
California labor law requires employers to provide certain employees with both meal and rest breaks, depending on how long their shift lasts. This rule only applies to “non-exempt” employees—those who are also paid by the hour and eligible for overtime. Exempt (i.e., salaried) workers are not guaranteed meal and rest breaks. However, some employers misclassify employees as exempt or misclassify them as independent contractors to avoid providing breaks and overtime.
Non-exempt California employees are entitled to an uninterrupted thirty-minute meal break at or before the beginning of the fifth hour of work and a second such break at or before the tenth hour of work. It is usually not legal for the employer to ask the employee to waive their break. But some exceptions might be made where a break is impractical – for example, a security guard working alone. Also, the employee may agree not to take a first meal break if they only work between five and six hours in a workday; or skip a second break if the workday is between 10 and 12 hours.
Meal breaks must last at least 30 minutes without interruption, and the employee is free to leave the worksite during this time.
Also, employers must provide non-exempt workers with ten-minute rest breaks for every four hours worked, or a fraction thereof. For example, an employee who works an eight-hour shift must get a thirty-minute meal break and two ten-minute rest breaks.
The 30-minute meal breaks are not paid, but employees do receive pay during their 10-minute rest breaks. Unlike meal breaks, employees do not necessarily have the right to leave the workplace during the rest break, but the employer must provide a location for them to take a break. Bathroom visits do not count as a rest break.
If the employer fails to provide a meal or rest break, they must pay the employee a penalty of one hour of pay for each day the break was not permitted. If your employer makes you so busy, it is impossible to take a break, and the employer is aware of this, then you may have a case for missed break penalties.
Other Unpaid Wage FAQs:
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- What types of damages can I get in a wage claim against my employer?