Meal & Rest Break Requirements in the State of California

Meal & Rest Break Requirements in the State of California

Many states have their own laws and regulations surrounding meal and rest periods – these laws can differ among industries as well. For more information regarding meal and rest periods in other states, you can click here.

Meal Period Requirements in California

In the state of California, there are several regulations when it comes to employees taking their meal and rest breaks that employers should be aware of.

  1. Employers are required to provide a 30-minute meal break if employees work for more than 5 hours per day. This meal period can be waived if the employee completes their workday in 6 hours or less and there is mutual consent between both parties.
  2. This first meal period should start no later than after 5 hours of work
  3. If an employee works for more than 10 hours in one day, he or she is entitled to a second meal period of at least 30 minutes. If the employee works for no more than 12 hours in one day, the second meal period can be waived by mutual consent between both parties.
  4. This second meal period should start no later than after 10 hours of work
  5. If an employee cannot be relieved of all duty during a 30-minute meal period, it would be considered an “on-duty” meal period and counted as time worked. This “on-duty” meal period can only be permitted when the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all duty and when an on-the-job paid meal period is agreed to in writing by all parties.
  6. If an employer requires the employee to remain at the work site or facility during the meal period, the meal period must be paid (even if the employee is relieved of all work duties during the meal period).
  7. If a meal period occurs on a shift beginning or ending between 10 PM and 6 AM, facilities must be available for securing hot food and drink or for heating food or drink, and there must be an area suitable for consuming food or drink.

For every day that an employee is unable to take a meal break meeting the requirements above due to work requirements, the employee must be paid for one additional hour at their regular rate of pay.

Here is an example of a meal break taken too late:

An employee begins work at 8:00 AM.  The employee should take their meal break by the end of the fifth hour of work, so no later than 1:00PM.  But at 1:00 PM, no one is available to relieve the employee, so the employee works until 1:15 PM and then takes a 30-minute meal break before returning to work until 4:30PM.  Because the employee was unable to take a meal break by the end of the fifth hour of work and worked more than six hours, they must be paid one hour at their regular rate of pay in addition to the eight hours actually worked.

Rest Period Requirements in California

The Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) wage orders require that employers permit nonexempt employees to take a rest period in the middle of each work period.

  1. The rest period should be at the minimum rate of a net 10 consecutive minutes for each four-hour work period or “major fraction thereof”. The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) considers anything more than two hours to be a “major fraction” of four hours.
  2. The rest period is counted as time worked, so employers must pay for these periods.
  3. A rest period is not required for employees whose total work time is less than 3.5 hours.
  4. Employers can increase rest period times in their own policies and procedures

Penalties

For every day that an employee is unable to take a rest break meeting the requirements above due to work requirements, the employee must be paid for one additional hour at their regular rate of pay.

For every day that an employee is unable to take boththeir required meal break(s) andtheir required rest period(s), the employee must be paid for two additional hours at their regular rate of pay.

Breastfeeding

In addition to regular meal and break requirements, every employer (including the state and any political subdivision) must provide break time to accommodate an employee who will be breastfeeding their child.

Preventing Penalties

Employers should review their policies to ensure:

  • Employees are aware of their meal and rest break entitlements
  • Employees have record of the time they begin and end each meal break
  • Employees who are not able to take a meal or rest break due to work requirements must report this on their timesheets and are paid as required

Payroll Systems has Time Labor Management solutions to address these complex meal and rest period requirements. For more information regarding our automated time systems that will keep you in compliance, fill out the form below!

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Updated 5/30/2019

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