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Your right to meal and rest breaks: What to know

Employees in California have many rights in the workplace. One of those rights is to receive meal and rest breaks according to current guidelines. While it may only seem like a short break, it is vital to ensure you are able to rest, eat and take care of yourself before you go back to doing your job duties.

The dangers of not receiving your meal or rest break should not surprise anyone. Not eating or resting during your workday can lead to serious risks for you and everyone around you. It is important for employers to follow meal and rest break rules, but it can be challenging for employees to know if their rights are being violated at all.

Meal and rest break guidelines in California

Under California law, employees who work for more than five hours are entitled to a minimum 30-minute meal period by the end of their fifth hour of work. If the employee is working a total of no more than six hours total for the day, the employee and employer can both agree to waive their right to a meal period.

Employees should be aware of their additional rights when it comes to meal breaks. These include:

  • A second 30-minute meal break is required for employees who work more than 10 hours in shift. This meal must be provided by the worker's 10th hour of working. An employee can waive their right to their second meal break if specific conditions are met.
  • On-duty meal breaks may be offered if the employee's nature of work cannot be relieved during their entire shift. On-duty meal breaks must be paid and employees must agree to this in writing.

In addition to meal breaks, employees have the right to receive 10 minute rest breaks during their work shifts. A 10-minute rest break is required for employees who work at least three and a half hours or more in a shift. The mandatory 10-minute rest breaks are required every four hours of work.

Did your employer violate your right to a meal or rest break? Employers can face consequences for failing to provide these breaks to you. You may be able to file an employment law claim to recover compensation for their violations. Speak to an employment law attorney about the specific facts of your case to see what next steps to take.

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