California has strong laws that protect employees. One area of these protections, established by the California Labor Code and a perpetually growing body of case law from the Appellate Courts, is breaks for employees. Employers are required to provide rest and lunch breaks to their employees if they work a certain number of hours each day. Unfortunately, employers often try to get around these laws or find ways to violate them. If you work in California, know the employers are required to provide the following breaks.
- Employees who work more than three and a half hours a day are entitled to a ten minute rest break for every four hours of work. This time must be paid, and the employer cannot require the employee to work during this time. Generally, employers give this break in the middle of each interval; however, the California Supreme Court has given employers more "latitude" when this is "infeasible." An employer who fails to allow an employee to have a rest break must pay an extra hour of pay.
- For employees who work more than five hours a day, California employers are obligated to provide at least a 30 minute, unpaid lunch break. The employee must not have any job duties during this break. Employees who work ten hours in a day are entitled to a second lunch break by the end of hour ten. If an employer fails to provide a meal break, they are obligated to pay an additional hour of pay at the regular rate to the employee.
- On-duty, or "working", lunches are only legally permissible in limited circumstances. In essence, working lunches must be explicitly agreed to between the employer and employee, is necessary to the job, and must be paid time. Given the strict duties that employers have to allow for lunch breaks without job responsibilities, employees should be wary of agreeing to a working lunch.
- Break for breastfeeding mothers. FLSA Section 7 requires that employers provide a "reasonable" break, as well as private space, for nursing mothers to pump breast milk for their children. This is a relatively new law, so new mothers may need to advocate this to their employers.
If your employer is depriving you of your legally mandated breaks, you should contact an attorney. The attorneys at Moss Bollinger have built a reputation as tough, non-nonsense advocates who will stand up to employers. We may be able to help you. If we accept your case, we collect nothing up front and only get paid if you do. Call us at 800-249-1175 to schedule a consultation or contact us online.