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California Break Laws: Everything You Need To Know In 2024

Updated: Jan 2

Meal And Rest Breaks In California Employment Law

You probably have regularly planned meals and rest breaks incorporated into your shift no matter where you work in California. However, when employees inquire about these breaks, many are surprised to hear that federal law does not oblige employers to provide them. Instead, breaks are given out of courtesy and corporate policy, as most organizations recognize that tired and hungry employees are not very productive.

Employees in most organizations are only paid for their brief breaks, not their lunch breaks. Even though federal law does not make these breaks mandatory, state legislation in California does. Discuss your concerns with a California Employment Attorney if you have issues with your employer regarding food and rest breaks.

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Breaks (Paid And Unpaid)

Paid and unpaid breaks are frequently questioned under federal law when employees and employers have disagreements. Employers must, for example, pay employees for all hours worked, including lunch breaks, under federal law.

Thus, they must be compensated if they continue their work obligations during a scheduled break, such as a receptionist manning the front desk or a server having something to eat while waiting on tables.

If you're not getting the same payment or breaks, consult with a California Employment Attorney to sort things out.

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Meal Breaks

If you work for more than five hours in a California business, your employer is required to give you a 30-minute meal break. This is usually unpaid and up to the employer's decision.

If you cannot be relieved of all responsibilities, your employer must provide you with an on-duty meal break, for which you must be compensated. You must, however, consent to it in writing if this is so.

Rest Breaks

California law requires your employer to provide you with a paid 10-minute rest break if you work at least four hours throughout your shift in a restaurant or elsewhere. Working in a fast-paced job where you must be on your feet all day can be exhausting, so a 10-minute break is always appreciated.

Rest breaks will almost always be included in the middle of your work shift to make them more convenient. This, however, is not required by law. Your employer is not required to provide you with a paid rest break if you work less than four hours during a shift.

Allow a California Labor Law Attorney to speak and negotiate with your employer if you are not receiving the rest breaks you are entitled to.

How Are Break Laws Handled In California?

While federal regulations may not totally protect workers in terms of taking breaks and being compensated for them, California state laws are considerably different.

To begin with, California law mandates that all employers provide paid lunch and rest breaks to their employees. Unfortunately, some (terrible) bosses will disregard these restrictions and force employees to work through breaks while refusing to compensate them for their efforts.

Allow the law to work for you by addressing your case during a consultation with a California Employment Attorney.

Are You Required To Take Breaks?

No, in the vast majority of cases. According to a California Supreme Court opinion, employers are only required to provide breaks to their employees. However, they are not required to compel employees to take their breaks if they prefer to work through a designated break period.

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In this case, special circumstances may apply particularly for employees who work shifts of at least 10 hours. Employees are entitled to two 30-minute unpaid meal breaks in these situations. While employees may opt to skip one of these meal breaks throughout their shift, they are not permitted to skip both.

Allowing the situation to worsen further when concerns about these breaks develop is not a good idea. Consult with a California Employment Attorney to receive answers to your questions. is a California Bar Association Certified Lawyer Referral Service that can refer you to an attorney best fit for your case. You can complete our submission form or reach us through our 24/7 live chat for a free initial consultation.


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