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Understanding nonexempt employee breaks in California

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2023 | Wage & Hour Laws

Employees usually look forward to the weekends to take a breather from work. However, burnout in the middle of a shift also happens in the workplace. That is why employees also look forward to workday breaks to catch their breaths. But did you know that there are specific rules about taking breaks in the workplace and you cannot just take them whenever you feel like it?

What breaks are you entitled to?

California laws require employers to give their nonexempt employees meal and rest breaks during workdays. However, the length of the break will depend on how many hours an employee is on duty. The state’s Labor & Workforce Development Agency requires employers to provide the following breaks:

  • A 30-minute meal break for more than five hours of work in a day
  • A second 30-minute meal break for more than 12 hours of work in a day
  • A 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked

As long as employees are uninterrupted and relieved from all duties, employers do not have to pay for their meal breaks. However, they do have to pay for the 10-minute rest breaks.

Some instances allow you, as an employee, to waive your meal breaks. However, if you did not express a waiver and your employer continues to deny you your breaks, you should explore remedies to protect your rights.

What happens if you do not get your breaks?

If your employer fails to give you the required breaks, they have to pay you according to the meal break law. Your employee has to pay you one additional hour of pay at your regular pay rate for each missed break, with certain limitations.

Calculating the pay you are entitled to for missed breaks is complicated. One mistake and you could be demanding and receiving payment less than what you should actually get. Hence, it is essential to have the proper resources and representation to hold your employer accountable while properly protecting your rights.