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Law Office of Karen J. Sloat, APC Over 100 Years of Combined Litigation Experience

Rest And Meal Periods At Work: What Employees Should Know


Employees in California must have the opportunity for a meal break after working for a specific amount of time, as well as rest breaks after being on the job for a particular amount of time. It is important to understand that these are laws that protect employees under California law. Most federal laws do not require meal or rest breaks, but certain protections for employees exist under federal law if employers choose to provide meal or rest breaks. Our California employment law attorneys can provide you with more information that can help you to understand your rights concerning meal and rest periods or breaks under both California state and federal law.

Federal Law Does Not Require Rest Periods or Meal Breaks 

Under federal law, employers are not required to provide rest periods (such as a coffee break) or specific lunch breaks or meal periods. However, as we will explain below, hourly employees do have rights to a rest period or meal break in most circumstances under California state law.

Federal Law Does Have Requirements When Rest Periods or Meal Breaks Are Provided 

When an employer provides rest periods or meal breaks to employees governed by federal law protections, the FLSA does have certain requirements concerning the employee’s right to pay during these periods. An employer must pay an employee for rest periods of anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes that the employer allows the employee to take.  In these cases, the U.S. Department of Labor considers rest periods to be compensable work time. If an employee is not paid for a short rest break, that employee may have a valid wage and hour claim under the FLSA.

Meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more) are not compensable under federal law. However, this assumes that the employer is not requiring the employee to do any work-related tasks during a meal period or break. As soon as an employer requires the employee to perform any work-related tasks during a meal period, that time also becomes compensable work time.

Meal Break Requirements for Non-Exempt Employees Under California Law 

Under California state law, non-exempt employees who work 5 or  more hours in a single workday must have a 30-minute, duty-free meal break. If an employee works for 10 or more hours in a single workday, then the employer must provide the employee with a second 30-minute meal break. Employees are permitted to waive these rights to take their meal breaks in some cases. When an employee is not going to work for more than 6 hours in a day, the employee can waive their single required meal break. When an employee is not going to work for more than 12 hours in a day, the employee can waive their second statutory meal break.

Rest Period Requirements for Non-Exempt Employees Under California Law 

When an employee works for more than 3.5 hours in a single day, the employee has a right to a 10-minute rest period for every 4 hours worked. Rest periods under California law, as under federal law, count as compensable work time.

Contact a California Employment Law Attorney 

You should contact a California employment law attorney for employees at the Law Office of Karen J. Sloat, APC if you have questions or concerns about your rights to meal breaks or rest periods. We represent employees in Riverside County, Cathedral City, Coachella and Desert Hot Springs.


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