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In California, labor laws have been put in place to protect the rights and well-being of employees, ensuring they receive adequate time for rest and meal breaks throughout the workday. 

However, there may be times when you wonder if it’s possible to take rest and meal breaks at the same time while on the job. 

So, let’s look at California’s regulations regarding rest and meal breaks and discuss whether or not they can be combined. If you have concerns, speak with our labor law attorneys today. 

Understanding Rest Breaks

Rest breaks are short periods of time, usually 10 minutes long for every four hours worked. During the breaks, employees can take a breather from their tasks. 

These breaks are paid time, meaning employees don’t lose their wages while taking a rest. Rest breaks must be given in two-hour intervals, ensuring that workers are given adequate time to recharge throughout their shifts.

Learning More About Meal Breaks

Meal breaks are a bit more distinct from rest breaks. For every five hours of work in California, workers are entitled to an unpaid 30-minute meal break. Employers may not require employees to work during this time. 

However, if the employee’s workday is six hours or less, they can waive this break by mutual agreement between themselves and the employee.

Can The Rest Breaks and Meal Breaks Be Combined?

Under the law, rest and meal breaks are meant to be taken separately in California. Combining them might seem like a tempting way to take a longer break or leave work early.

However, labor laws have established that these breaks should be taken at different times.

Rest breaks serve as short relief periods that help employees remain focused and productive throughout their shifts. On the other hand, meal breaks allow workers to have some uninterrupted time to eat and recharge before returning to work.

11 Facts You Should Know About Rest Breaks and Meal Breaks

Let’s look at 12 facts that will help you understand your rights better about rest and meal breaks, whether you’re an employee or an employer. Break laws that are in place in the state are enforced and overseen by the Department of Industrial Relations.

1. Employees can skip rest breaks if they want. While employers must provide rest breaks, they can’t force an employee to take a rest break if they choose to skip the break.

2. Rest breaks should be at least 10 consecutive minutes long. An employer cannot interrupt an employee while they are taking a break. The number of 10-minute breaks depends on the hours worked. Usually, a break is given in the middle part of a work period.

3. Rest breaks have to be paid. That is the law. Your employer cannot subtract the time for rest breaks from your pay.

4. Breaks for meals are not employer paid. Meal breaks are usually 30 minutes in length. Meal breaks are given once an employee works a minimum of five hours. If an employee works up to six hours, they can agree to forego the breaks if they wish.

5. An additional meal break of at least 30 minutes is given if the employee works 10 hours or more, provided the total hours are over 12 hours. Otherwise, the second meal break may be waived by mutual consent if the employer does not waive the first meal break requirement.

6. A 10-minute rest break is allowed in California once an employee works 3.5 hours. A second rest break is provided after 6 hours. After an employee works 10 hours, they receive a rest break for every four hours worked.

7. Again – rest breaks and meal breaks are considered separate and, therefore, according to state law, are not taken at the same time. Providing the breaks separately is meant to avoid burnout or fatigue.

8. Taking a meal break is up to the employee. An employee can also decide on the time for the break as long as they don’t combine breaks during the work period. 

9. If an employer refuses to offer adequate breaks, an employee can sue the employer. In turn, the employer can receive remuneration worth one hour’s earnings per day if they were not given their breaks.

10. Employers may offer an on-duty meal break if the employee’s work prevents them from breaking from their duties. Both the employee and employer must agree in writing about on-duty meal breaks to prevent the development of future legal issues or disputes.

11. Employers are required, by law, to offer salaried workers the opportunity to take an unpaid meal break of 30 minutes. The employee is not required, if they so choose, to take the break – regardless of the hours worked.

In conclusion, California labor laws clearly define rest and meal breaks as separate entities that cannot be combined. It is essential to follow these regulations to protect employee rights and maintain a healthy work environment. 

If you’re an employee, you should feel free, by law, to discuss your break rights with your employer. If you don’t feel you can talk to your employer, you should contact a lawyer for further guidance and advice.

Speak to an Employment Lawyer About Payments Owed for Breaks or Other On-the-Job Related Expenses Today

Do you believe you’re owed additional payments for workday breaks or other similar on-the-job-related expenses? If so, contact an employment lawyer today. Contact the Mara Law Firm to schedule an appointment now.

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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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