Attorney Jean-Claude Lapuyade

When employers fail to relieve workers of duties during meal breaks

After hours on the job and putting in time for one’s employer, a California worker may look forward to an uninterrupted period to enjoy some food and a break from their duties. Under the law, California employers are required to provide nonexempt workers who work at least 5 hours with 30-minute breaks from all employment tasks. Workers must not be compelled to do their jobs while they are on these breaks.

However, the reality of many workplaces is that workers often push through their breaks or have to do work tasks while eating their meals. This is wrongful and workers subjected to these conditions may have legal options for seeking compensation. This informative post should not be read as legal advice, but readers are invited to take their meal and break violation concerns to trusted California-based employment law attorneys.

When a meal break is not a break

A break from work happens when a worker is fully released from their duties and can enjoy time for food and other non-work pursuits. If a worker is granted fully free time, their employer does not have to pay them for their 30 minutes for a meal. However, if a worker has to do some work as they eat, their break is not fully free, and they should be paid for their regular work rate.

In some circumstances a worker may have their break interrupted by work. When this happens, their employer should compensate them for their break by adding one hour of pay to their next paycheck. An employer who fails to compensate their worker for interrupted and working lunches may be in violation of California law.

Addressing meal break violations with an attorney

Some workers may worry about confronting their employers about meal break violations and lost compensation. However, workers have rights under the law and deserve to be paid for what they earn. When meal violations happen, workers can seek help from employment law attorneys. These legal professionals can help them clarify and understand their possible claims and seek compensation for what they have lost.