California Labor Laws
Does your employer in California provide you rest and meal breaks? Surprisingly, federal laws do not allow time-offs for employees to eat a meal or take a break during working hours. In addition, employers need not to offer these breaks at all as per federal law. However, many employers do facilitate breaks, understanding that employees need to be fresh and relaxed so they can more productive and efficient.

State laws are different and many states mandate businesses to provide rest or meal breaks. In California, employers and businesses need to provide both.

Federal Law: Unpaid vs. Paid Breaks

According to federal law, employers need to compensate for worked hours, including breaks. For instance, if a staff member works during a meal break, they should be paid. Employees such as receptionists and paralegals who work during their lunch or other meal break in order to fulfill their duties need to be compensated for the extra time worked.

In addition, federal law mandates that businesses should compensate for small breaks taken by an employee during the workday. The breaks may last just a few minutes, but they are thought of as part of working hours and therefore, personnel should be paid.

However, businesses need not compensate for bona fide breaks for meals during which employees can get relief from their duties to consume a meal. A bona fide meal break last for 30 minutes at least, and shorter breaks can also qualify, based on the situations.

California Law Mandates Rest and Meal Breaks

Now, let’s look at California labor laws on breaks. California mandates employers to offer breaks and stipulates that employees should be compensated for some of the break time. In addition, California requires businesses to provide both paid rest breaks as well as a meal break.

Meal Break Rules

California mandates businesses to offer a meal break of 30 minutes once a staff member has worked 5 hours. These meal breaks can remain unpaid. If a worker’s workday is less than 6 hours, they can agree to waive the meal break.

A staff member who works 10 hours is eligible for a second uncompensated meal break of 30 minutes. If their whole workday is not more than 12 hours, the employee can waive the second meal break. But the second break can be given up only if the worker took the first one. In short, a worker cannot give up both meal breaks in a workday.

If a worker’s duties prevent them from going for a break, the employer may offer a meal period on-duty. This time should be paid and the worker must agree in writing to the break on duty.

Rest Break Rules

California also stipulates that employers should offer a rest break. For every 4 hours worked, employees should allow staff to avail a paid 10-minute rest break. If possible, these breaks should be offered during the middle part of the shift. However, rest breaks need not be provided if an employee’s shift time is less than 3.5 hours.