California has many laws in place that protect the rights and interests of employees, including laws regulating wages and hours. Part of wage and hour law is ensuring that employees are not expected to work too long without rest or meal breaks. Employers should abide by all meal and rest break requirements and, if they fail to do so, employees can take legal action and seek legal remedies for the breaks they did not receive.
If you believe that your employer has deprived you of your rightful meal and rest breaks, you should learn about your rights and options. Often, employer policies impact multiple employees at once, and you might be able to bring a consolidated case with coworkers in certain situations. One of our experienced California meal break attorneys can evaluate your situation and advise you of your options and rights. Do not hesitate to consult with Mara Law Firm today.
California labor laws are clear that employers have to allow employees to take at least 30 minutes for meal breaks for every five hours they work. A previous meal break is not counted as part of the hours worked. For example:
There are additional requirements for meal breaks, including:
Employers can elect to provide employees with longer meal breaks, though it is not required by law. However, if an employer has a policy to provide hour-long meal breaks, it must apply this policy fairly and in a non-discriminatory manner among employees.
The law does not require that employers pay employees for meal breaks, so if you work a shift from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm with one meal break, you only have to be paid for eight hours. An employer can choose to pay employees for meal breaks but, again, they must apply this policy in a fair manner.
As is the case with most labor laws, the meal break requirement only applies to nonexempt employees. Nonexempt employees must also receive rest breaks and overtime pay for hours worked over eight in a day or 40 in a week. In order to be exempt from these labor laws – and meal break requirements – you must meet certain criteria, including:
Too many employers classify employees as exempt when they should not be, which means the employee has likely been deprived of wages and meal breaks they deserve. If you believe that you should be nonexempt, but your employer claims differently, you should have an experienced employment lawyer review your situation.
There are also certain professions that have special meal breaks rules, such as:
If you work in one of these professionals, you should discuss your rights to meal breaks with our legal team directly.
The law does not require employees to take their meal breaks, and if your employer permits it, you can decide you want to work through your break. Since a meal break is not paid, you might be able to shorten your time at work by 30 minutes by choosing to skip your meal break, or you might be able to work and get paid for an extra 30 minutes. Employers are not allowed to put pressure on employees to skip meal breaks, as the decision to work through a break must be the employee’s voluntary choice.
On the other hand, employers are allowed to require employees to take their meal breaks. Many companies, especially larger corporations, are eager to prevent allegations of meal break violations, so they have policies in place that ensure meal breaks are taken. Again, employers cannot force employees to clock out and then request that they work through their breaks. If your employer pressures you to keep working or limits your ability to enjoy your meal break as you choose, you might have a labor claim for off-the-clock work.
If your employer denies you meal breaks that you deserve under California law, you can file a claim against your employer with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement or a claim in civil court. The law entitles you to receive meal period premium pay, which is one hour of pay based on your usual wages for every day you were denied a meal break.
This means that if you are paid $20 per hour, and you went 30 workdays without meal breaks, you could seek $600 in penalties. If multiple employees were deprived of meal breaks, one employee might be able to file a class action on behalf of the group to seek penalties all at once.
At Mara Law Firm, we believe that every employee should receive meal and rest breaks each time they work in accordance with California law. We are ready to represent employees in cases against their employers to obtain the penalties they deserve. Contact us online or call (619) 234-2833 to learn more about how our California meal and rest break attorneys can help.
Mara Law Firm ClientSan Francisco
Mara Law Firm ClientSan Francisco
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