When are you entitled to a meal break at work?

Workers in California are entitled to meal breaks if they work at least five hours. These meal breaks are mandatory, but some employers refuse to grant them. This often leads to litigation. For this reason, workers in California will want to educate themselves on their legal rights to meal breaks.

Legal protections

Under California law, if a worker is on duty for more than five hours, they are entitled to a 30-minute meal break by the end of their fifth hour of work. These meal breaks are unpaid. During the meal break the worker is considered to be off-duty. This means workers must be relieved of all duties during the break time.

Workers can take on-duty meal breaks under certain circumstances. An on-duty meal break can only be taken if the nature of the worker’s job duties prevents them from total relief of these duties. The on-duty meal break agreement must be in writing and signed by the worker. Finally, the worker must be paid during the on-duty meal break. On-duty meal breaks can generally be revoked any time in writing by the worker.

Can a worker have a second meal break?

If a worker is on duty for more than 10 hours in one day, they are entitled to a second 30-minute meal break by the end of their tenth hour of work. Workers can waive this second meal break if their shift is no longer than 12 hours, if the worker and employer mutually consent to the waiver and if the first 30-minute meal break was not waived.

California workers have rights

California workers are entitled to meal breaks if the above conditions are met. Employers who fail to honor these rights can face consequences, including paying workers an additional hour’s wage for all unpaid meal breaks. Workers who are not granted the meal breaks they are owed have three years to file a claim for unpaid wages. These claims can ensure the worker is compensated and their rights to meal breaks will be honored in the future.