California Meal and Rest Breaks Lawyers

At the Mara Law Firm we are proud to fight for the rights of California workers through individual litigation and class action lawsuits.


California has many laws in place that protect the rights and interests of employees, including laws regulating wages and hours. Part of the 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. 

California Meal and Rest Breaks lawyers

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 and Rest Breaks Lawyers can evaluate your situation and advise you of your options and rights. Do not hesitate to consult with Mara Law Firm today. 

California Meal Break Requirements

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:

  • If you work a shift of less than five hours, you are entitled to no meal breaks for that shift
  • If you work a shift of five to ten hours, you are entitled to one meal break for that shift
  • If you work a shift of 10.5 to 15.5 hours, you are entitled to two meal breaks for that shift 
  • If you work a shift of 16 to 21 hours, you are entitled to three meal breaks for that shift

There are additional requirements for meal breaks, including:

  • The break must be uninterrupted
  • An employee must not be pressured or asked to work during a meal break
  • Generally, an employee must be allowed to leave the work site during this break

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. 

Exceptions to the Rule

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:

  • Have certain job duties, such as executive, administrative, or professional roles
  • Earn a minimum salary, which in 2020 is $49,920 for California companies with 25 or fewer employees, or $54,080 for companies with more than 25 employees (there are different thresholds for computer and certain medical professionals)

Too many employers classify employees as exempt when they should not be, which means the employee has likely been deprived of the 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 break rules, such as:

  1. Group-home care
  2. Healthcare workers
  3. Construction
  4. Manufacturing
  5. Logging, mining, and similar operations
  6. Commercial driving
  7. Movie production
  8. Bakers
  9. Utility workers

If you work with one of these professionals, you should discuss your rights to meal breaks with our legal team directly.

Are You Required to Take Meal Breaks?

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. 

California Meal and Rest Breaks Lawyers

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.

What are Your Rights if You Do Not Get Proper Meal Breaks?

If your employer denies you the 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. 

Contact Our California Meal and Rest Breaks Lawyers for Assistance Today

California Employment and Defense Base Act Lawyer David Mara

At Mara Law Firm, we believe that every employee should receive a 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 breaks lawyers can help.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney David Mara who has more than 20 years of legal experience in employment law.

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