Meal Break Law in California

Do California employees have a right to take a meal break?

Yes. In California, an employee has a right to take one 30 minute meal break during shifts longer than five hours.

When do California employees have a right to take two meal breaks per day?

If an employee works more than ten hours in a work day, a second meal break of not less than thirty minutes is required.  However, if the total hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal break may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and employee.

My employer requires me to take “on duty” meal breaks.  Is this legal?

Generally, no.  An “on duty” meal period shall be permitted only when the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all duty and when by written agreement between the employer and employee an on-the-job paid meal period is agreed to. The written agreement must state that the employee may, in writing, revoke the agreement at any time.  If the employer requires the employee to remain at the work site or facility during the meal period, the meal period is considered “on duty.”

Unless all of these criteria are satisfied, an “on duty” meal period is against the law.  An employer who fails to provide “off duty” meal periods must also pay each employee a “premium wage” in the amount of one (1) hour at the employee’s regular rate of pay for each day a meal period is not provided.

What other obligations does an employer have with respect to meal breaks?

In all places where employees are required to eat on the premises, a suitable place for that purpose must be designated. This requirement does not, however, apply to employees covered by IWC Order 16-2001, on-site occupations in the construction, drilling, logging and mining industries.. For employees covered by IWC Order 16-2001, the employer must provide an adequate supply of potable water, soap, or other suitable cleansing agent and single use towels for hand washing.

What Should I Do If I Have Not Been Provided 30 Minute, Off Duty Meal Breaks?

If you believe your employer has not fully provided you with meal breaks under California law, click here.