There isn’t a federal law requiring employers to provide employees with rest breaks during the workday. However, California is one of many states that require employers to provide meal and rest break throughout their shift. California not only requires employers to give employees meal and rest breaks in the workday, but also require employers to pay employees for some of this time.

California requires that all employers must give their employees a 30-minute meal break after the employee has worked at least 5 hours. The employer is not required to pay the employee for this meal break because meal breaks are unpaid periods. If the employee only works a 6 hour shift, the employee may request to waive this period and work the entire shift since many employees would rather get paid for the entire 6 hour shift.

Is My Employer Required to Give Me a Rest Break?

California requires that employers must provide all their employees rest breaks throughout their shift. Employers must provide all employers a 10-minute rest break after the employee has worked at least 4 hours. The employer must pay the employee for these short rest breaks. Since the employees are being paid for the rest breaks that they take, they are required to remain on the premises during the 10-minutes.

In places where employees are required to eat on the premises and cannot leave, employers must provide an area designated for meal breaks.

Are Employees Required to Take Their Breaks?

In 2012, the California Supreme Court decided that the employers only have to provide the meal and rest breaks to employees and do not have to monitor to determine whether employees actually take breaks. Employees are free to not take their meal and rest breaks.

Working through the mean period does not allow employees to use that unused period in order to leave work early prior to the end of the shift.

Are the Laws Different for Different Groups of Employees?

State laws and regulations regarding meal and rest breaks vary from state to state. In states such as Florida, there are no state laws requiring employers to provide rest or meal breaks. However, in Florida, employees under the age of 17 are entitled to a 30-minute break for every 4 hours of work. Some states have different requirements depending on the nature of the job and the amount of work activity in each shift.

Is My Employer Required to Pay Me During My Rest or Meal Breaks?

Federal law does not require the employer to give you a rest or meal break. However, for employers that do provide break time, federal law mandates that the employer must compensate any breaks of 5-20 minutes. However, a break lasting 30 minutes or more is not considered "compensable time" and the employer is not obligated to pay you.

What Are the Consequences for Not Providing Breaks?

California employers face harsh consequences for violating meal and rest break laws. These consequences include large fines and penalties. If an employer fails to provide the employee a meal break, the employer owes the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular pay rate. The employee has three years to claim the unpaid wages.

If an employer fails to give the employee a rest break, the employer owes the employee one hour of pay for each missed rest break and must include this pay in the next paycheck.

Do I Need an Employment Lawyer?

An experienced employment attorney can determine whether you are allowed to take rest or meal breaks. An experienced California employment attorney can also help you with a claim if you believe your employer has not paid you for the hours that you are entitled to and any other wage disputes.