MEAL AND REST PERIODS

CALIFORNIA MEAL AND REST PERIOD LAWS

California law requires that employers provide hourly employees with adequate meal and rest periods.  Employees that don’t receive an adequate meal or rest period must be paid one additional hour of work for the missed break.  This is known as a meal or rest period premium and must be paid to employees under California law.  Unpaid meal period premiums can result in significant liability and are often settled before trial.  Additionally, meal and rest period issues that affect an entire workforce can serve as the basis for a class action lawsuit.  If you or a loved one has been deprived of lawful meal and rest periods, you may have a claim against the company.

COMMON MEAL AND REST PERIOD VIOLATIONS

There are many different situations where an employee is entitled to one hour of additional premium pay for inadequate meal or rest periods:

  • If the employee is not relieved of all duty or free to do as he or she pleases
  • If the employer exercises control over the employee during the break
  • If the employee is not permitted to leave the premises
  • If the employee’s break is taken late or cut short
  • If the employee performs any work during the break

These issues are particularly problematic where an employee is misclassified as an “exempt” or salaried employee, even though he or she does not meet the necessary requirements. In such cases, the individual would be entitled to a meal and rest period premium for each day he or she worked in the position, going back up to three or four years.

MEAL PERIOD REQUIREMENTS

Meal periods must meet specific legal requirements in California.  Employees that work more than five hours in a day must receive a 30-minute meal period, although this first meal period can be waived by the employee if his or her shift is no longer than six hours.  Employees that work more than 10 hours in a day must be given a second 30-minute meal period, which can be waived only if the shift is no longer than 12 hours and the employee did not waive the first meal period.  These requirements apply to all employees in San Diego and throughout California.

REST PERIOD REQUIREMENTS

Rest periods are also required under California employment laws.  Employers must provide paid rest breaks of at least 10 minutes for every four hours of work or “major fraction thereof.”  The rest period should be taken within the middle of each four-hour work period.  Employees are free to leave the premises and must be free of all work responsibilities.

WORK-FREE BREAKS ARE REQUIRED

Employees must be completely relieved of all duty during the meal or rest break.  The break must be taken within the required time period and at least 30 minutes long for a meal period and 10 minutes long for a rest period.  If an employer fails to meet these requirements, the employee must be paid for an hour of additional work.

ON-CALL MEAL AND REST PERIODS

“On-call” meal and rest periods, as a general rule, are not allowed.  There are certain circumstances where on-call breaks are permitted under California law, but the burden is on the employer to prove that the nature of the work requires an on-call break and the employee has agreed in writing to the on-call break, which can be revoked at any time.

YOU MAY BE ENTITLED TO PREMIUM PAY

Lawsuits frequently focus on an employer’s failure to provide meal and rest periods.  An employee that has been denied or worked during a meal period every day for the past four years is owed one additional hour of pay for every day of work during the relevant period.  These wages can be significant.  Contact us today to discuss your case with Nicholas J. Ferraro, who specializes in deficient meal and rest periods cases.