Do You Have Lawful Policies Around Meal/Rest Breaks?

Federal law does not give employees the right to take rest or meal breaks during the work day. The law requires employers to pay employees for a certain time, even if it is designated as a break, but it does not require employers to offer employees break time.

However, state law is a different story. Several states in the United States require employers to provide their employees with meal and rest breaks. California is one of these states. In California, not only are employers required to provide employees with meal and rest breaks but they are also required to pay for some of this time. Read on to learn if you have lawful policies around meal or rest breaks.

California Meal Break Laws

Firstly, even though it is referred to as a meal break, an employee is not required by law to eat during this break. An employee can choose to spend their meal break eating or doing other things such as running errands.

California requires employers to give employees who work more than five hours a day a 30-minute unpaid meal break. However, an employee can waive a meal break if they will work for six hours or less in a day. Additionally, an employee who works more than 10 hours a day is entitled to a second thirty-minute meal break. But an employee can skip their second meal break if:

  • They are not working for more than twelve hours; and

As an employer, you must give employees meal breaks no later than the end of the fifth work hour and no later than the end of the tenth work hour.

Also, you cannot encourage employees to skip meal breaks. However, you are not required to ensure employees take meal breaks.

Suppose the nature of an employee’s job prevents them from taking a meal break. In such a case, you are required to provide an on-duty meal period. However, on-duty meal breaks are paid breaks. Also, an employee must agree to this break in writing.

California Rest Break Laws

California requires employers to provide employees paid 10-minute rest breaks for every four hours (or major fraction) worked. Anything that is over two hours is a major fraction of a four-hour period. If, for instance, an employee works for seven hours, they are entitled to two 10-minute paid rest breaks. Such an employee is entitled to one rest break for the first four hours and a second rest break for the last three hours.

However, California does not require employers to provide employees who work less than three and a half hours a day with rest breaks.

Additionally, just as it is with meal breaks, employees can waive rest breaks, but employers are prohibited from pressuring or encouraging employees to skip rest breaks.

Note: California rest breaks must be in the middle of an employee’s work period, to the extent that is practicable.

Contact an Employment Lawyer in San Diego, TencerSherman LLP

Need help determining if you have lawful policies around meal/rest breaks? An experienced employment lawyer in San Diego, TencerSherman LLP can help. Schedule a consultation at