California has some of the strongest worker protection laws in the world. If you work in California and your employer has failed to provide legally compliant meal and rest breaks, you could be owed significant back pay. Meal and rest breaks are required by California employment laws for the vast majority of employees.
A quick overview of the rules
For nonexempt employees, the employer is required to provide a meal break of at least 30 minutes. This applies when you work more than five hours in a day before the the end of your fifth work hour. The employer must also provide a second meal break of at least 30 minutes if the employee works beyond 10 hours in a day.
IMPORTANT: Meal breaks must generally be free of all work duties. Your meal break may be noncompliant if your employer makes you do work-related duties during the break: for example, monitor a walkie-talkie or a cellphone for work. You are entitled to one hour of pay for each day that you are not provided with a legally compliant meal break.
For nonexempt employees, the employer must provide a paid 10-minute rest break for every period of four hours that you work, or a major fraction thereof. If your employer fails to provide a rest break, the employee is entitled to an additional full hour of pay for every day that the employer failed to provide a paid rest break that is entirely free of work duties.
If you have questions about any of these matters, please see our overview of rights to meal and rest breaks. Our firm represents individual employees and groups of employees throughout California.