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Do California employers have to offer lunch and rest breaks?

As someone who makes your living working for a California employer, you have certain rights with regard to lunch and rest breaks during the work day. When your employer fails to comply with the state’s regulations regarding employee meal and lunch breaks, he or she is running afoul of the law, and you may be able to hold him or her accountable for doing so.

According to the California Chamber of Commerce, your employer had a legal duty to provide you with certain lunch and rest breaks unless you classify as an “exempt” employee, meaning you are exempt from minimum wage laws and overtime regulations. As a nonexempt employee, however, your employer must give you at least a nonpaid half-hour lunch break for every five hours you work, and the break must take place prior to the end of your fifth hour on the clock.

Meanwhile, if you log more than 10 hours in a single workday, your employer has a legal obligation to offer you a second 30-minute meal break that cannot start more than 10 hours into your work day. You may, however, be able to waive this second break at your discretion if you worked less than 12 hours in total, you already took your first meal break and you and your employer agree to you skipping it.

In terms of rest breaks, your employer must offer you a 10-minute uninterrupted rest period anytime you work at least 3.5 hours. Typically, this means you can get a 10-minute rest break for every four hours you work, and in most, but not all, cases, the break will come somewhere close to the middle of your shift.

This information about your employer’s obligations to give you meal and rest breaks is educational in nature and does not constitute legal advice.

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