Rest Break and Meal Break Claims

What are the rules in California regarding meal periods?

California law requires that employees be provided with a thirty-minute meal period on or before the fifth hour of work.  However, if the total work period per day of the employee is six hours or less, then the meal period may be waived by mutual consent between the employer and employee.

A second thirty-minute meal period is required if an employee works more than ten hours per day.  However, if the total hours worked is 12 hours or less, then the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent between the employer and employee only if the first meal period was not waived.

Unless the employee is relieved of all duty during the entire thirty-minute meal period and is free to leave the employer’s premises, the meal period shall be considered “on duty,” counted as “hours worked” and paid for at the employee’s regular rate of pay.  An “on duty” meal period is only permitted when the nature of the work prevents the employee from being relieved of all duty and when by written agreement between the employer and employee an on-the-job meal period is agreed to. The test of whether the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all duty is an objective one. An employer and employee may not agree to an on-duty meal period unless, based on objective criteria, any employee would be prevented from being relieved of all duty based on the necessary job duties.

What are the rules in California regarding rest breaks?

California law requires that employers authorize and permit nonexempt employees to take a ten-minute paid rest period for each four hour work period, or major fraction thereof.  A rest period is not required for employees whose total daily work time is less than three and one-half hours. The rest period is counted as time worked and therefore, the employer must pay for such periods.  However, there are certain exemptions and exceptions within the law (depending on the type of employee, the type of industry, etc.)  It is best to speak with an experienced California employment lawyer to determine whether your employer is authorizing and permitting you to take adequate rest breaks.

Am I entitled to additional rest periods because I am a smoker?

No.

What happens if my employer does not authorize and permit proper rest periods or meal periods?

If an employer fails to provide an employee a rest period in accordance with California law, the employer must pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of pay for each workday that the rest period is not provided.  Thus, if an employer does not provide all of the rest periods required in a workday, the employee is entitled to one additional hour of pay for that workday, not one additional hour of pay for each rest period that was not provided during that workday.

Similarly, If an employer fails to provide an employee a meal period in accordance with California law, the employer must pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of pay for each workday that the meal period is not provided.  Thus, if an employer does not provide all of the meal periods required in a workday, the employee is entitled to one additional hour of pay for that workday, not one additional hour of pay for each meal period that was not provided during that workday.

SHOULD I CONSULT AN ATTORNEY?

If you feel you have not been provided adequate meal periods or rest breaks by your employer, or other employment-related injustice, contact our office to see how we can help. Lawsuits can be extraordinarily complex, and often require a trained professional to maximize the value of your case.  The lawyers at our office regularly handle cases on behalf of employees across the entire state of California.  Reach out now for a free confidential consultation.

HOW MUCH DOES A MEAL/REST BREAK ATTORNEY COST?

Our office represents California employees who have not been provided adequate meal and rest breaks on a contingency fee basis. This means that the client does not pay any expenses out of pocket, and does not pay attorneys fees until the case is won or settled. If the case does not settle, or does not result in any recovery, then the client does not owe any attorneys fees. The lawyer is paid a percentage of what is recovered at the conclusion of the case.