In California, rest breaks and meal periods are fundamental to employment law. Recognizing their importance in maintaining a productive and healthy work environment, the state has enacted specific regulations to ensure that employees receive appropriate rest periods.
Compliance with rest break regulations can be complex, and wronged employees can file employment complaints. Employees, as well as employers, should learn about rest break requirements in this state.
Rest breaks are different from meal breaks
Employees in California are entitled to a paid 10-minute rest break every four hours. Even employees who work slightly less than four hours are entitled to rest breaks. These breaks must be provided during the work period.
In addition to rest breaks, California law mandates that employees who work more than five hours receive a meal break of at least 30 minutes. A second meal break is required if an employee works more than 10 hours.
Waiver of meal breaks
In some situations, meal breaks may be waived by mutual consent. The first meal break can be waived if the workday is no more than six hours. Similarly, if the workday is no more than 12 hours, the second meal break may be waived, provided the first meal break wasn’t waived.
On-duty meal breaks are permitted only when the nature of the work prevents relief from all duties, and there must be a written agreement between the employer and the employee. These on-duty meal breaks must be paid.
Timing of breaks
The timing of rest and meal breaks is a critical consideration. Employers must make a good-faith effort to provide rest breaks during each work period and not discourage or impede employees from taking their entitled breaks.
Certain industries have different break and meal requirements, so employees must learn about their specific industry. Legal action is possible for those who aren’t getting their due breaks. Keeping track of time worked and breaks provided can make this process a bit easier, as can working with someone familiar with these matters.