Every person with a job understands the importance of taking breaks. Without meal and rest breaks, you might become too hungry or fatigued to focus on the task at hand. This would result in putting yourself at risk of making a mistake, or even causing an accident at work. If you feel that your employer has denied you rightful break periods, a Los Angeles employment law attorney can help you enforce your rights. The experienced personal injury lawyers at Arias Sanguinetti Wang & Team, LLP, have been advocating for decades on behalf of workers whose employment rights have been violated. In cases where violations of the meal and rest break laws have occurred, we may be able to help seek the restitution you deserve.
What Rest Break Periods Are Required under California Law?
Under California law, all non-exempt employees must receive a 10-minute paid rest break for each 4-hour interval they work or “a major fraction thereof.” The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) mandates that work shifts of 2 hours or longer count as a “major fraction” of 4 hours, but it does not require rest breaks for work periods totaling fewer than 3.5 hours. Workers are entitled to a net break period of ten minutes that begins the moment they are relieved from their duties. This break should occur near the middle of the employee’s 4-hour work shift, if possible. Employers who violate an employee’s rest break rights are penalized at least one hour of pay for each day they deny rightful breaks.
Employers must treat rest periods as hours worked and must pay rest periods as time worked. According to a California Supreme Court decision in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., employers must relieve employees of all duties during rest breaks and relinquish any control over how employees spend their break time. If either rest break is not given or is interrupted, the employee is entitled to one hour of pay at the regular rate of pay, which must be included in the next paycheck.
If an employer does not authorize or permit a rest period, the employer shall pay the employee one hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of pay for each workday that the rest period is not provided. The rest period is counted as time worked and therefore, the employer must pay for such periods. Workers’ who are paid a piece rate (paid per unit or per mile, for example), are usually entitled to be paid separately for rest periods, separate from their piece rate, at either the minimum wage or their regular hourly rate. There are exemptions and exceptions to the rest period requirement, for example, for big rig truck drivers and certain employees of 24-hour residential care facilities.
If your employer discriminates or retaliates against you in any manner whatsoever, for example, he discharges you because you ask about not getting a meal period, object to what you believe to be an illegal practice, or because you file a claim or threaten to file a claim with the Labor Commissioner, you can file a discrimination or retaliation complaint, or you can file a lawsuit in court against your employer. Our Los Angeles employment attorneys can assist you in bringing that claim.
Meal and rest break violations continue to be the source of a great deal of litigation for California employers. You may find that you are experiencing meal and rest break violations at your job. As such, identifying California’s meal and rest breaks requirements is extremely important. The rule of thumb under California meal and rest break law is that employers must provide a paid rest break for every 4 hours of work and an unpaid meal break every 5 hours. Each rest break must be at least 10 minutes, and each meal break must be at least 30 minutes.
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Am I Entitled to Meal Break Periods under California Law?
California law requires that employers provide a 30-minute unpaid meal break for work shifts of 5 or more hours. Workers may not waive this break period if they work more than 6 hours in a single shift. They are also entitled to take a second 30-minute meal break after working 10 hours, but they can waive the second break so long as they took the first one.
A second meal period of not less than thirty minutes is required if an employee works more than ten hours per day, except that if the total hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and employee only if the first meal period was not waived. Labor Code Section 512.
The employer satisfies its legal obligation to provide an off-duty meal period to its employees if it:
- Relieves its employees of all duties
- Relinquishes control over their activities.
- Permits them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted, 30-minute break (in which they are free to come and go as they please).
- Does not impede or discourage them from doing so.
- Unless the employee is relieved of all duty during his or her thirty-minute meal period, the meal period shall be considered an “on duty” meal period that is counted as hours worked which must be compensated at the employee’s regular rate of pay.
Employees can take on-duty meal periods only in certain limited circumstances. An on-duty meal break must meet all of the following conditions:
- Is permitted only when the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all duty;
- Must be agreed to in writing by you and the employee;
- Must be paid; and
- Can be revoked at any time in writing by the employee.
- IWC Orders 1 -15, Section 11, Order 16, Section 10.
If the employer requires the employee to remain at the work site or facility during the meal period, the meal period must be paid. This is true even when the employee is relieved of all work duties during the meal period. Bono Enterprises, In. v. Bradshaw (1995) 32 Cal.App.4th 968. If your employer fails to provide the required meal period, you are to be paid one hour of pay at your regular rate of compensation (this is referred to as meal period premium pay) for each workday that the meal period is not provided.
Generally, California employers must provide their employees with an uninterrupted, off-duty 30-minute meal period before they complete their fifth hour of work. A second meal period is required if an employee works more than ten hours. To “provide” an employee with a meal period means the employer must actually relieve employees of all duty, relinquish control over their activities, not impede or discourage them from taking their meal period, and permit them to leave the work premises. If an employer fails to provide an employee with a required meal period, the employer must pay one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of pay for each workday that the meal period is not provided.
Employers are required to keep time records showing when the employee begins and ends his or her meal period. If time records for meal periods are not kept, there is a presumption the employer failed to provide the required meal period. The first meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employee and employer if the workday is no more than six hours, and the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and employee if the workday is no more than 12 hours and the first meal period was not waived. An “on duty” meal period will be permitted only when the nature of the work prevents the employee from being relieved of all duty, and it is agreed to in writing by the employer and employee. There are certain exemptions from the meal period requirement, for example, big rig truck drivers.
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What Does Exempt versus Non-Exempt Mean When It Comes to Meal and Rest Breaks?
California state law requires that all non-exempt workers receive meal and rest breaks, depending upon the number of hours they work in a shift. Employees typically fall under non-exempt status unless they hold executive, administrative, or professional positions. Determinations of exempt versus non-exempt status are based upon a worker’s actual job duties, not simply job titles or pay. Salaried workers may still qualify as non-exempt workers, depending upon their actual duties.
Knowing your rights as working in California is important. Employers must comply with employment laws related to minimum wage, overtime pay, meal periods, and rest periods. Make sure you are aware of your rights and any exemptions or exceptions that apply to your particular job. If you believe that your employer has failed to comply with California employment laws, contact our attorneys at Arias Sanguinetti today.
Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Meal and Rest Break Attorney
If you feel that you have not been provided full and complete meal and rest breaks, the employment lawyers at Arias Sanguinetti may be able to obtain recovery of money against your employer. Our team has broad experience in wage and hour litigation and are strategic, fast-acting litigators who argue effectively and persuasively. We understand the need to achieve results in the most practical and effective manner possible on behalf of our clients.
Navigating the specific California meal and rest break laws may seem confusing for the average worker. The Los Angeles meal and rest break lawyers at Arias Sanguinetti Wang & Team, LLP has been practicing employment law and advising clients for decades. We may be able to help you receive compensation from your employer in the event they have violated state or federal laws. If you believe your meal and rest break rights have been violated, contact us online or call (310) 844-9696 to schedule a free consultation.