Many honest, hard-working workers may believe that it is not a big deal if they don’t receive their full, uninterrupted meal and rest periods while they work. That is noble, but the California law expressly requires that such “benefits” must be provided. And the California legislature thought that it was important enough that if employers do not comply with this rule, an employee who didn’t get his/her full, uninterrupted meal and rest periods will be paid another hour of pay.
California Supreme Court has expressed the importance of meal and rest periods as follows:
Forcing employees to work through their meal periods not only causes economic burdens in the form of extra work but also noneconomic burdens on the employees’ health, safety, and well-being. (Murphy, supra, 40 Cal.4th at p. 1113.) Employees denied compliant meal periods “face greater risk of work-related accidents and increased stress” and lose valuable time “free from employer control that is often needed to be able to accomplish important personal tasks.” (Ibid.) Shortening or delaying a meal period by even a few minutes may exacerbate risks associated with stress or fatigue, especially for workers who are on their feet most of the day or who perform manual labor or repetitive tasks. Further, within a 30-minute timeframe, a few minutes can make a significant difference when it comes to eating an unhurried meal, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, giving instructions to a babysitter, refreshing oneself with a cup of coffee, or simply resting before going back to work.
Under California law, employers must provide non-exempt employees who work more than 5 hours in a workday with one 30-minute meal period that begins no later than the end of the 5th hour of work and another 30-minute meal period that begins no later than the end of the 10th hour of work.
And during that meal period, an employer is required to relieve its employees of all duty, permit them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted meal break, and not impede or discourage them from doing so. It is unlawful for an employer to undermine a formal policy of providing meal breaks by pressuring employees to perform their duties in ways that omit breaks.
There are some exceptions to the meal period rule described above, and the above description is not a comprehensive explanation of all nuances of California law on meal periods, so please consult an experienced employment lawyers about your specific situation.
California employers must authorize and permit a net 10-minute paid rest period for every 4 hours worked or major fraction thereof. The word “net” means that the rest period begins when the employee reaches a designated rest area or area appropriate for rest. This phrase “major fraction thereof” can be confusing to many people, but essentially means that anything over 2 hours is considered by the courts to be a “major fraction” of 4. California non-exempt employees’ rest period entitlement is as follows:
|Rest Period Required
|0 – 3.5 hours
|3.5 – 6 hours
|6 – 10 hours
|10 – 14 hours
Just like meal breaks, employers must relieve employees of all duties and relinquish control over how employees spend their time.
If an employer does not provide a legally compliant a rest period, the employer must pay the employee 1 hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of pay for each workday that the rest period is not provided.
There are some exceptions to the rest period rule described above, and the above description is not a comprehensive explanation of all nuances of California law on rest periods, so please consult an experienced employment lawyers about your specific situation.