California Break Laws: How They Apply to Employee Breaks

Unless a few limited exceptions or collective bargaining agreement apply, under the California break laws, the majority of the employees who work in California for over five hours on a daily basis have to be given a 30-minute meal period at least. If the employee does not work for over six hours, the meal period might be given up by mutual agreement of both the employee and the employer.

In addition, an employee must get a second meal period of days least half an hour any time he or she works for over 10 hours in one day. However, the second meal period might be given up by mutual consent of both the employee and employer if the former works a total that’s not more than 12 hours in one day.

Unless an employee is taken off all duty during a meal period of 30 minutes, the meal period should be seen as on-duty and calculated as time worked. The only time an “on-duty” meal period should be allowed is when the type of work stops an employee from being released from all duty and when an on-the-job paid meal period agreement written by all parties. The written agreement has to state that the employee might, in writing, revoke the agreement at any time.

If the employer needs the employee to remain at the facility or work site in the course of the meal period, the meal period has to be paid. This is true even when the employee is taken off all work duties in the course of the meal period.

In every place of employment where employees must eat on the premises, an appropriate place for that purpose has to be designated. No definition for “suitable place” is given in the California regulations.

Under California break laws, employers are must “authorize and permit” rest breaks and there’s no affirmative duty for employers to say that employers must take rest breaks.