Rests, Breaks, Lunches
10-Minute Rest Breaks
California employers must authorize and permit their non-exempt employees to take paid rest breaks as follows: 10-minutes of rest for every four hours of work or major fraction thereof. The rest break(s) must generally be taken in the middle of each period and employees must be relieved of all duty during the rest break(s). Employees cannot waive their right to rest breaks.
Employees working less than 3.5 total daily hours need not be provided a rest break.
Failure to provide a lawful rest break may subject the employer to rest break penalties representing one hour of pay for each workday that a rest break was not provided.
30-Minute Lunch Breaks
California employers must also permit their non-exempt employees to take at least a 30-minute lunch break whenever they work for a period of more than five hours in one workday. The lunch break may be waived, by mutual consent, where the employee does not work more than six hours in one workday. Lunch break waivers must be in writing and employees must generally be allowed to revoke the waiver at any time. (Note: Special rules pertaining to lunch breaks may apply to certain employees who work in the health care industry.)
During the lunch break, employees must be relieved of all duty. This means that employers who permit their employees to “work through their lunch break” are not complying with California law. “On duty” lunch breaks are only permitted under severely limited circumstances. In any event, “on duty” lunch break agreements must be in writing and will generally be highly scrutinized by California courts.
Failure to provide lunch breaks as specified above may subject the employer to a lunch break penalties representing one hour of pay for each workday that a lunch break was not provided. In cases where the employee has not been relieved of all duty during the lunch break,” the employee will also be entitled to receive his/her regular compensation for the time spent working.
Employees who have complained about not receiving proper rest breaks and/or lunches and who have suffered adverse consequences as a result, may also have a separate claim of retaliation which may make available the following additional damages: Compensatory damages, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages.