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Meal & Rest Periods in California

Your Right to Reasonable Breaks

The California Supreme Court recently took measures to resolve the common obscurities and uncertainties regarding employers' responsibilities to provide employees with meal and rest periods. In a decision reached in 2012, the California Supreme Court clarified employers' obligations when it comes to providing workers with adequate break periods. Although there are a number of various elements that were highlighted, the outlined the requirements to provide meal periods to nonexempt (hourly employees).

The key holdings from the court's opinion included meal periods are needed to:

  • Relieve them of all duty
  • Not interfere with their ability to take an uninterrupted break
  • Provide them with a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break

In addition, the court also ruled that employers are not required to "police" meal breaks, meaning that they are not liable for paying employees who choose to work during their break, unless they knew or should have known that the employee was working during the meal period. This Supreme Court decision serves to highlight that employment law is a widely disputed, complex and ever-changing area of law. It also exemplifies that the government takes care to ensure the rights and fair treatment of workers.

Knowledgeable Employment Attorneys in Orange County

As seasoned Orange County employment attorneys who have spent decades immersed in this concentrated legal field, our legal team always remains up to date with the current laws and legislation surrounding all aspects of employers' responsibilities and employees' rights. Equipped with extensive knowledge and litigation experience, we are prepared to educate you regarding meal and rest period laws. We can successfully represent you during the claim process or trial. The following information clarifies the general California meal and rest period laws.

Meal Period

In California, employers are required by law to provide nonexempt, or hourly, workers with an unpaid 30-minute meal period during the first 5 hours of each work day. Employees who do not work more than 6 hours in a day can voluntarily sign a written waiver of the meal period, thereby waiving their right to the unpaid 30-minute break. Additionally, all hourly employees who work more than 10 hours in a day are entitled to a second unpaid 30-minute meal period, unless they voluntarily sign a written waiver specifically for the second meal period. Any failure by an employer to provide these meal periods may result in employees' entitlement to extra pay and may subject the employer to potential penalties.

Rest Period

Hourly employees are entitled to take a paid rest break for 10 minutes for every 4 hours worked or "major fraction thereof." While there is no obligation to make rest breaks come before or after meal periods, employers must still take reasonable measures to provide their employees with rest periods. When they fail to do so, employees may be eligible for compensation and employers may be subject to penalties.

The rest period laws provide the following for nonexempt employees:

  • 10-minute rest periods for shifts lasting from 3.5 hours to 6 hours in length
  • Two 10-minute rest periods for shifts lasting from 6 hours to 10 hours
  • And so on, according to 4 hour increments as indicated in the law

Learn About Your Rights from an Employment Attorney

At Diefer Law Group, PC, we field a talented team of attorneys who have earned widespread recognition and professional achievements, including inclusion in the Super Lawyers® list of Rising Stars and the 2012 and 2013 Avvo Clients' Choice Award. With their versatility and extensive legal knowledge, our legal team is fully prepared to help you learn more about meal, rest period breaks, your rights and the nature of your potential claim during a free case evaluation.

Find the information you need to recover the wages you are owed and to retain the representation you require to protect your rights. Contact Diefer Law Group, PC today.

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