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.

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 Employers Can Face & How They Can Prevent Them

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

When an employer does not provide the required meal and rest periods to their employees, it must pay the employee one hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each workday that the employee does not receive his or her meal or rest period. Employers that fail to provide both meal and rest periods in a single day must pay the employee an additional two hours of pay.

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.

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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