Many employees in California are unaware that their employers have a legal obligation to provide uninterrupted meal and rest breaks. So, what exactly defines an unpaid meal or rest break at work?
Off-duty meal period
If you work in California, your employer is required to provide a 30-minute off-duty break when you work more than five hours in a day. This meal period must meet certain criteria, which include:
- You are relieved of all your duties during this break.
- Someone else is in temporary control of your activities.
- Your 30-minute break is uninterrupted.
- Your employer gives you a reasonable opportunity to take the break.
- Your employer doesn't discourage you from taking the break.
- You are entitled to two 30-minute breaks if your work day extends to 10 hours.
If your boss or coworkers are unreasonably pressuring you to work during your meal period, your employer probably isn't fulfilling a legal obligation.
In addition, you're also allowed to take your breaks off-site, since you are not on the clock. Your employer might require that you spend your meal period at your jobsite. If so, they need to pay you for those breaks.
Missed meal break
As an employee, you may be entitled to additional pay if you are denied meal or rest breaks. While you are responsible for taking the meal breaks provided, employers are not allowed to deny rightful breaks to employees.
Keep in mind: there is a statute of limitations on meal and rest break claims. In California, you have up to three years from the last violation to bring a claim against your employer. Regardless of filing deadlines, you should contact an attorney at your earliest convenience if your rights as an employee were violated.