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What are the California Labor Laws Regarding Lunch Breaks?

Mar 7, 2022 | Labor Code

Employers in California are required by law to give lunch or meal breaks to employees who work a certain number of hours.

What are the California Labor Laws Regarding Lunch Breaks?

Employees who work more than 5 hours a day are required by Labor Code 512 to take a 30-minute meal break. However, if the employee works over 5 hours per day but less than 6 hours and wishes not to take a meal break, the employer has the right to allow the employee to not take it.

If an employee works more than 10 hours per day, a second meal break of at least 30 minutes must be provided. However, if the employee works less than 12 hours a day, he or she may waive their meal period, but only if they did not waive the first meal period.

Is My Lunch Break Compensated or Uncompensated?

Your employer is not compelled to compensate you for your lunch break in most cases. If an employee works for 5 or more hours in a shift, the employer is required to provide a lunch break, but the business is not compelled to pay the employee for the break time. Employees may be given a paid lunch break by some companies, but it is not required by California labor regulations for non-exempt employees.

If they are not compensated, many employees may not want to take a lunch break. Employees may opt to leave work early. Even though they are not compensated for the break, an employee cannot waive his or her lunch break if he or she is working 6 or more hours each day.

If an employee works fewer than 6 hours a day, they can waive their dinner break. During his or her lunch break, an employee who is not relieved of all duties is still regarded “on duty.” This comprises individuals who have been relieved of all responsibilities yet are required to remain on the job. A meal interval spent “on duty” is counted as hours worked and must be rewarded at the employee’s regular rate of pay. Only when the nature of the job precludes the employee from being relieved of all obligations and by written agreement are “on duty” lunch breaks permitted.

Is it Legal for my Boss to Make Me “On Call” Throughout my Lunch Break?

Employees may not be required to continue working during a break or to be “on call” during a meal or rest period. Depending on the job, an employee may be required to stay “on-site” or in the workplace during their lunch break. Employees must be compensated at their usual rate of pay during “on-duty” meal periods.

An “on duty” lunch break is only permissible if the following conditions are met:

The nature of the job prohibits the employee from being relieved of all responsibilities; and The employee agrees in writing to remain on site during meal periods, with the written agreement stating that the employee may renounce the agreement at any time in writing.

Have More Questions About California Labor Laws and Lunch Breaks?

California labor laws are meant to protect employees from being exploited by their employers. Feel free to give KAASS LAW a call to get the compensation you need for your employment matters. To reach our office line, dial 310-933-5171 to book a consultation.