California Lunch Break Laws 2024 – Meal and Rest Breaks Law

HomeBlogCalifornia Lunch Break Laws 2024 – Meal and Rest Breaks Law
California Lunch Break Laws 2024 – Meal and Rest Breaks Law
Jan 01

If you are a California employee or employer, you should be aware of and understand all lunch and meal break laws. Lunch and meal break laws are established to best protect all workers. If your employer is denying you lunch or meal breaks, you may be entitled to receive compensation. An experienced employment lawyer can help you establish a case and give you the representation you deserve.

Rest Break Requirements

Unless you are an exempt worker, you are entitled to a rest break while working a shift. The specific requirements are as follows:

  • If you have worked for at least 3.5 hours, you are entitled to a 10-minute rest break.
  • You are allowed to skip your rest break, but you are not required to work during a rest break.
  • Your rest break must be at least 10 minutes of uninterrupted time.
  • All rest breaks are required to be paid.
  • You are not required to remain on the work premises during your rest breaks.
  • Rest breaks are required to be in the middle of the workday. Therefore, if you work 10 hours, your rest break should fall somewhere in the middle of your shift.

Meal Break Requirements

Every nonexempt employee who has worked over five hours in a day is obligated to receive a meal break. The criteria are as follows:

  • Your workplace cannot require you to work through any meal break.
  • If you have worked five hours or more, your workplace is required to give you a 30-minute meal break.
  • Your meal break should begin sometime before the last hour of your shift.
  • It is not required for you to take this meal break. If you have worked less than 6 hours in a day, you can agree to forego your meal break. You can also agree to take your meal break while on duty. This means that you still have to work while eating, but you do not have to clock out. This time is, therefore, paid.
  • You should be allowed to spend your meal break however you wish, including leaving the work premises.
  • After working 10 hours, you are entitled to a second meal break. This second meal break can be waived as long as you took your first one and are not working more than 12 hours.
  • It is up to you as an employee to clock out and declare that you are taking your meal break.

Non-Compliant Workplace

If your boss refuses to give you a rest or meal break, you have the right to file a claim. An experienced lawyer can help you evaluate your unique situation. They can work with you to compile a case against your workplace. This can get you compensation for the injustice done to you.

If your employer is proven to have violated the rest/meal break regulations, they will be required to pay you one hour of your regular pay for every day they neglected to give you a break.


Q: Who is exempt from California’s meal break and rest break laws?

A: Exempt employees are typically white-collar employees who earn at least twice the minimum wage salary for full-time employment. These workers must also work in a creative or managerial capacity and be responsible for making individual and discretionary decisions.

Exempt workers also include truck drivers and inside salespeople. However, despite not falling under the typical break requirements, these individuals are still entitled to breaks while working. To find out the specific requirements for you as an exempt worker, it is best to consult an experienced employment lawyer.

Q: Can you combine meal and rest breaks in California?

A: Rest and meal breaks should not be combined. If you have worked for 12 hours, your boss cannot simply give you a 1-hour meal break and say that it qualifies for your entire meal break. Instead, you should be given two separate meal breaks. Neither meal break should fall within the last hour of your shift.

There may be certain exceptions to the rule if you work in:

  • Healthcare
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • The motion picture industry
  • The baking industry
  • A group home

Q: Are paid 15-minute breaks required by law in California?

A: According to California law, employees who have worked at least 3.5 hours in one day are entitled to a rest period. These rest breaks must be at least 10 minutes of undisturbed, paid time. The employer cannot require the employee to stay within work premises, and they cannot make an employee work through this time. Rest breaks are laid out as follows:

  • Under 3.29 hours – 0 breaks
  • 30-6 hours – 1 break
  • 01-10 hours – 2 breaks
  • 01-14 hours – 3 breaks
  • 01-8 hours – 4 breaks
  • 01-22 hours – 5 breaks

Q: Can you still do six straight hours of work without a lunch in California?

A: You are allowed to work through or take your lunch break on duty if:

  • This action is voluntary.
  • You are not pressured by your workplace.
  • Your workplace agrees to that request.

However, it should be known that your workplace has the right to deny your request to skip your lunch break and order you to take one against your wishes. Denying your lunch break does not protect you from being punished or fired from work.

Representation at Your Workplace

We understand how hard it can be to suffer an injustice at work. You may often feel underappreciated or not seen by your employers, like your voice does not matter. It can make work an even more stressful, unpleasant place to be. At Clark Employment Law, APC, we work with you to ensure that you are being treated fairly in your workplace. Our team is here to listen and build a close relationship with you as our client. We work tirelessly to help you build a case for your unique situation that represents proof of workplace injustice and gets you the compensation you deserve. If you are an employee or an employer in Los Angeles who believes you have suffered an injustice at work, contact us today.

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