Meal and Rest Break Entitlement | Employee Rights Law Firm

May 15, 2019

If you have ever wondered what breaks you are entitled to under the California Law, read on:

Rest breaks: The number of rest breaks you are entitled to depend on how many hours per day you work, and, to some extent, the industry you are in. In addition, you must be a non-exempt employee. Generally, you must work at least 3 ½ hours a day to be entitled to one rest break. Your employer must provide you with the opportunity to take at least ten minutes as an uninterrupted break (paid). If you work six hours in one day, you are entitled to a second break, and if you work over ten hours, you are entitled to a third break. The time you work in between breaks are “work periods.” Your rest breaks should be in the middle of each work period (for example: if you work eight hours in a day you should have a separate rest break before and after your meal break). You are not required to remain on work premises during your rest breaks, but you should ensure you can return on time. While you are not required to work during your rest breaks, you are free to skip them. Further it is not your employer’s duty to ensure you take your breaks. Rather, they need to make them available to you and not prevent you from taking them.

Meal Breaks: If you work over five hours a day, you are entitled to an unpaid meal break of at least thirty minutes before the end of the fifth hour of your shift. You can agree to waive your meal break if you do not work more than six hours. You can also agree to take an on-duty meal break and be paid for the meal break. Should you work over ten hours in a day, you are entitled to a second meal break, although you can agree to waive the second meal break if you work less than twelve hours. A meal break must allow you to leave your work premises and you cannot be required to work during the meal break.


*The employer has the obligation to make sure the employees’ breaks are made available but ultimately the employee is responsible for going on breaks.

*Meal and rest breaks are separate and should NOT be combined.

*There are industries which are exceptions to California Laws (ex. healthcare, construction, motion picture, manufacturing, etc…)

*You must be a non-exempt worker.

The violation of these rights under California Labor Code Section 512 can entitle you to penalties. The filing deadline for meal and rest period violations is considered to be three years, meaning you could collect up to three years in damages. It is always a good idea to first discuss any issues you have with receiving breaks with your supervisor, and if you cannot reach an agreement, make a written complaint to human resources.

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