It's more common than most people realize: employers fail to provide employees with meal and rest breaks. In fact, if you're a nonexempt employee in California, state law requires your employer to provide you with uninterrupted meal and rest breaks.
Sometimes employees are denied these breaks over the course of months or even years, so the time and the owed wages can really add up. If your right to meal and rest breaks has been denied, you could be owed significant compensation.
Employees who are 'on call' are often denied their rightful breaks.
If you are an on-call worker, and particularly if you use a walkie-talkie for work-related communications, you are more likely to have your right to meal and rest breaks denied. That's because walkie-talkie communications or even text messages on your phone could interrupt your breaks. You may be owed significant compensation if interruptions happen frequently.
On-call workers whose rights have been violated may include hotel employees, entertainment industry workers, security guards, ambulance drivers and others.
Meal and rest breaks must be fully compliant with the law.
How do you know if your rights have been violated? These are the rules in California:
- Nonexempt employees must be provided with a paid 10-minute rest break for each four-hour period the employee works.
- The rest break must be free of all work-related duties.
- If your employer doesn't allow rest breaks, you're entitled to one additional full hour of pay for each day that your employer didn't provide you with a paid rest break.
- Nonexempt employees must be provided with a meal break of at least 30 minutes when the employee works more than five hours in a day.
- The 30-minute meal break must be given before the end of the fifth hour of work.
- The meal break must be completely free of all work duties.
- The employer must provide a second meal break of at least 30 minutes if the employee's work period extends beyond 10 hours.
If you have questions about these matters, speak with an employment law attorney about your rights and the possibility of obtaining full compensation for any wages you are owed.