Has your employer failed to give you with duty-free meal breaks?

You have a lot of protections as a California worker. But the onus is on you to act to protect yourself. If you don’t, then your employer can trample those rights without repercussion, which could negatively impact your mental health and your financial well-being. Don’t let your employer take advantage of you in that way.

One way you can protect yourself is by analyzing your meal and rest breaks. Under California law, you’re entitled to a 30-minute meal break for every five hours that you work. Some employers fail to make these breaks available to their workers, while others fail to make the breaks “duty free.” We want to look at that latter aspect of these breaks so that you’re better positioned to determine if your meal break rights have been violated.

What does it mean to have a duty-free meal break?

When you’re on the job, your meal breaks should be uninterrupted. This means that your employer shouldn’t be able to require you to take calls, respond to emails, or cut your break short to help customers. Your employer can’t require you to perform any work duties during these breaks. If they do, then they’ve violated your rights, and you might be justified in taking legal action against your employer.

Sometimes, employers try to get around these mandatory breaks. They might restrict you to staying on the premises during your break, or they might otherwise try to dictate how you spend your meal break. This is against the law.

Can your employer force you to take a meal break?

Yes. The law requires that your employer make meal breaks available to you, but it’s ultimately up to you to exercise your right to take that break. However, if your employer sets your work schedule and needs you to take your meal break at a certain time, then they can dictate when you take that break. If you stray from their requirements, then you could be subjected to discipline, even including termination.

So, if you plan on skipping meal breaks or deviating from what your employer requires, it’s a good idea to first discuss it with your supervisor and obtain your employer’s approval.

Tips for building your meal break lawsuit

You need evidence to build a strong legal claim against your employer for their violations of the state’s meal break laws. Here are some steps you can take to build an effective case:

  • Keep a written record of your meal breaks, documenting when you take them or try to take them, as well as any restrictions that your employer places on them.
  • Documenting anything that your employer requires you to do during your meal breaks.
  • Talking to your co-workers to see if they’ve been denied meal breaks.
  • Tracking how your employer responds when you try to raise meal break issues with them.

Remember, being as detailed as possible is helpful here. So, be diligent, retain written communications with your employer, and be consistent in documenting any issues pertaining to your meal breaks.

Do you need assistance building your meal break violation case?

If you think you could benefit from assistance building your meal break violation case, then now is the time to read up on the law and figure out the best way to gather and present evidence. Don’t be afraid to ask for any assistance you might need. By being proactive in developing your case, you can hopefully secure the accountability and compensation that you deserve.