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Rest Breaks FAQs

How Many Rest Breaks am I Supposed to Get?

Clients often ask our Orange County Rest Break lawyers, “How many breaks is my boss supposed to give me?” In California, your employer must give you a ten-minute rest break for every 4 hours of work.

Under California law, "Every employer shall authorize and permit all employees to take rest periods, which insofar as practicable shall be in the middle of each work period. The authorized rest period time shall be based on the total hours worked daily at the rate of ten (10) minutes net rest time per four (4) hours or major fraction thereof. However, a rest period need not be authorized for employees whose total daily work time is less than three and one-half (3 ½) hours."

This means that your employer has to give you a ten-minute rest break for every 4 hours of work you perform. If you work 8 hours in a day, then your employer has to give you 2 ten-minute breaks.

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When I am Supposed to Get My Breaks?

Under California law, an employee need not receive a rest period for shifts of three and one-half (3 1/2) hours or less. However, employees must be authorized or permitted to have one ten (10) minute break for shifts over three and one-half (31/2) and up to six (6) hours.

In addition, employees must be authorized or permitted to have two ten (10) minute breaks for shifts over six (6) hours and up to ten (10) hours; three ten (10) minute breaks for shifts over ten (10) hours and up to fourteen (14) hours; and so forth. This means that if you worked for 12 hours that day, your boss is supposed to give you three (3) ten-minute breaks. Many employers are not letting their employees take their legally required breaks. Many others force their employees to work during their breaks. If your employer is not letting you take any breaks, you should call our office today to discuss your case with our experienced employee rights lawyers.

You should also know that there is no specific requirement to provide breaks before or after a meal period, but the law does require that employers make a good faith effort to schedule rest periods in the middle of a work period "insofar as practicable." This means your employer should normally provide you with a rest break before and after your meal period during an eight-hour work shift and avoid placing both of your rest breaks before your meal period and none after your meal period. Some employment conditions could make this infeasible, however, so you should contact our experienced employee rights lawyer today to discuss your specific situation. Call today, the consultation is free.

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What Should I do if My Boss Isn’t Giving Me a Lunch Break?

Clients usually ask our employee rights lawyers: How many Meal Periods am I supposed to get? Under California law, when an employee works for five hours, the employer has three choices regarding meal periods: (1) give the employee an off duty meal period (meaning no work during the break); (2) have the employee sign a waiver of the meal period if the employee’s shift will be over in one hour or less; or (3) obtain written agreement to an on duty meal period if circumstances permit.

Failure to do one of these things will render the employer liable for what is called “premium pay”. Premium pay means that your employer would have to pay you one additional hour of pay at your regular rate of pay for each missed meal or rest break.

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Can My Employer Make Me Work During My Lunch Break?

If your employer provides you with a lunch break, often called a “meal period”, your employer has met its legal obligations if it relieves you of all duty, relinquishes control over your activities, and permits you a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted thirty (30) minute break. Your boss cannot impede you from taking your lunch break and also cannot pressure you to skip your lunch break.

However, under California law, your employer is not obligated to police meal periods and ensure that no work is performed. Legitimately relieving you from your duties and the relinquishing of control satisfies the employer's obligations. Similarly, work by a relieved employee during a meal period by itself does not place the employer in violation of its obligations and create liability for premium pay. Each case is unique and different rules apply for different employment situations, so you should call or email our experienced workers rights lawyers today.

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When am I Supposed to Get My Lunch Break?

Unless you voluntarily waive your lunch break for a shift of less than six (6) hours, your employer must provide you with your first meal period no later than the end of your fifth hour of work. In other words, no later than the start of an employee's sixth hour of work. Your employer must also provide you with a second meal period after no more than 10 hours of work. However, it need not necessarily be provided within 5 hours after the first meal period ended. Thus, the time between the two consecutive meal periods may exceed 5 hours. These laws can be tricky, and employers can be even trickier with the way they try to cut employee’s lunch breaks, so don’t hesitate to call our experienced employment lawyers today with any of your questions.

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