Employee rights include the right to appropriate rest and meal breaks. The exact breaks you are entitled to as a nonexempt employee depend on your shift length. If your employer doesn’t provide you with uninterrupted rest and meal breaks, you can file a claim against them.
Employees are entitled to their rest and meal breaks, and if an employer tries to discourage or prevent those breaks, that is illegal. An employer is required to provide the opportunity for an employee to take a rest or meal break, but they can’t force an employee to take a break. Employees who voluntarily give up their meal or rest break, or take them later than the law suggests, are allowed to do so.
An employer has only satisfied the requirements of a meal or rest break if the following are true:
Meal breaks are only unpaid if they meet these requirements. If you are not relieved of all duties on a meal break, it is paid. Only certain occupations allow employees to be on call, or maintain a portion of their job duties, during a rest or meal break. If an employee is not in one of these industries, there must be a written waiver and agreement between the employer and employee to take on-call meal breaks. This written waiver can be revoked by the employee.
Nonexempt employees who have a legal right to rest and meal breaks are generally employees who have hourly and weekly wages. For employees who are exempt from meal breaks, but not rest breaks, requirements include:
Meal and rest breaks also do not apply to certain classes of workers, such as independent contractors.
There are other industries and types of employees who are subject to different rest and meal breaks. Employees like agricultural workers and other employers whose job is outside have the legal right to breaks in the shade whenever necessary to prevent heat illness. Employees who are part of a union have different meal and rest breaks. Union-protected industries include:
Each of these industries has different legal requirements for rest and meal breaks.
An employer may not explicitly prevent an employee from taking their mandated breaks, but they may still take actions that discourage an employee from their breaks. This includes:
A: Nonexempt California employees must be given an unpaid 10- to 30-minute meal break for a shift that is longer than 5 hours. An employee is then entitled to a second meal break for shifts longer than 10 hours. Rest breaks are 10-minute paid breaks that a nonexempt employee is entitled to for every 4 hours of work.
A: Yes, you can work a 6-hour shift without taking a lunch break. A nonexempt employee is entitled to a meal break if they work more than 5 hours, but this meal break can be waived as long as the shift isn’t longer than 6 hours. Meal break waivers must be done by mutual consent of employer and employee.
A: In an 8-hour shift, a nonexempt California employee is entitled to the following breaks:
A: Exempt employees are often those who:
These are not the only employees who are exempt from meal breaks. Union-protected employees often have different rest and meal break requirements.
Our team at Shirazi Law Firm, P.C., has worked in employment law for years. We have experience working on both sides of employment law cases, providing us with unique insight into how employers operate. We now solely protect employee rights and want to protect you. Contact our team today.