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California Lunch and Rest Break Laws

March 16, 2020

California labor law regarding meal and rest break requirements can seem complicated. To help take some of the mystery out of employee breaks, we've condensed the laws to a simple paragraph and accompanying chart to help you quickly get a better understanding of how rest and meal periods work in California.

Note: Find out more about State Lunch and Rest Break laws.

10 Minute Paid Rest Breaks
Employees who work at least 3.5 hours in a day are entitled to one 10 minute paid rest break for every 4 hours worked, or "major fraction" thereof. California law considers anything more than 2 hours to be a major fraction of 4. Rest breaks are to be taken as close to the middle of each work period as possible. While employees cannot be required to work during a rest break, they may be required to remain on work premises.1

If an employer does not authorize or permit a rest break, the employer shall pay the employee one hour of pay at the employee's regular rate of pay for each workday that the rest break is not provided.

California Paid Rest break law chart table

*or major fraction thereof - anything more than two hours is considered to be a "major fraction" of four


Unpaid 30 Minute Meal Breaks

Employees who work at least 5 hours in a day are entitled to one unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes. If an employee will work less than 6 hours in the workday, the meal break can be waived by agreement between employee and employer.

Employees who work over 10 hours in a day are entitled to a second meal break of at least 30 minutes. If any employee will work less than 12 hours in the workday, the second meal break can be waived by agreement between employee and employer as long as the first meal break of the workday was not waived. While employees cannot be required to work during a rest break, and must be free to take their meal break off work premises.2

If an employer does not authorize of permit a meal period, the employer shall pay the employee one hour of pay at the employee's regular rate of pay (known as meal period premium pay) for each workday that the meal period is not provided.

California meal break table chart

*except that if the total work period per day of the employee is no more than six hours, the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of both the employer and employee

**except that if the total hours worked is no more than twelve hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and employee only if the first meal period was not waived

 

The information presented above is intended for reference only and is neither tax nor legal advice. Consult a professional tax, legal or other advisor to verify this information and determine if and/or how it may apply to your particular situation.

1California Labor Law - Rest Breaks | 2California Labor Law - Meal Periods

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