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California Employment Lawyers > Blog > Employment > How Much Meal and Rest Breaks do California Employees Get?

How Much Meal and Rest Breaks do California Employees Get?


Most employers won’t outright steal from you. But that doesn’t mean they won’t try to cheat you. One way that many employers try to cheat employees, is by shorting them of their legally required meal and rest breaks.

If an employer has an employee who is working 8 hours, and the employer is supposed to give that employee an hour meal break, and the employer shortens it to 30 minutes, that may not seem like a lot. But multiply that by thousands of employees, and suddenly, the employer is saving a lot of money, at the expense of employees, who are now working more than they should, for no extra pay.

How Employees Get Cheated

Many employers who try to short employees from meal or rest breaks won’t just announce they are shortening meal or rest periods. Rather, they may do other things that an employee may not even notice is happening. For example, an employer may:

  • Put pressure on an employee to work through, or shorten, a meal or rest break, or guilt the employee into doing so, or incentivize and reward employees who allow this to happen
  • Create roadblocks or obstacles to taking a meal break—for example, by giving assignments, or tasks, continually, that must be done immediately, such that to do the job, the employee simply cannot take a required meal or rest break
  • Contact employees during meal breaks and giving them tasks during their meal or rest breaks

Meal Breaks: What is Required?

What kind of rest or meal breaks do you get? That depends on how many hours you work, and what kind of worker you are.

Note that during these breaks, no matter what they are called—meal or rest—there is no requirement that an employee do either; an employee can eat, rest, or do whatever they please, during these breaks. Employees can even come and go from the workplace.

However, some employees, for example, if you are the only one working your job at a specific location, may be required to stay on premises. In these cases, you must be paid for your break times, and there must be a facility where you can make and eat food.

How Long of a Break?

If you are paid by the hour, the law requires that you get 30 minutes of rest or meal, for every 5 hours that you work. The break must come before the end of the 5 hour period. If you work 10 hours, you will be entitled to another 30 minute break, again, before you have worked the full 10 hours.

With the agreement of your employer, you can opt out of a meal break, but not both of them (if you are working more than 10 hours).

Rest Breaks

Rest breaks, unlike meal breaks, are always paid. You are allowed to skip them, and they should last about 10 minutes for every 4 hours that you work.

Are you being treated fairly at work? Contact the San Jose employment lawyers at the Costanzo Law Firm today.




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