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Meal and Rest Breaks


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The Law on Meal and Rest Breaks

Breaks allow employees to recover from physical and mental fatigue, as well as allow them to tend to personal needs. A good example of such breaks would be “meal and rest breaks”.

What Is a Meal and Rest Break?

Employers are legally obliged to provide meal and rest breaks in accordance with California labor laws. Under these laws, non-exempt employees must receive an unpaid, 30-minute lunch (or meal) break if they work more than five hours in a day. This meal break is required to begin no later than the fifth hour during the workday.

Exempt and Non-exempt Employees

Employees who are classified as exempt are not required to receive overtime by their employers under the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as they meet the specific criteria for such exemption and receive a salary as opposed to an hourly wage. Generally, FLSA provides an exemption from minimum wage and overtime regulations for executives, supervisors, professionals, and positions outside of sales.

On the other hand, non-exempt employees do not meet the requirements set forth by FLSA and must be paid at least the federal minimum wage for each hour worked, along with overtime of not less than one-and-a-half times their hourly rate for any additional hours beside the 40-hour weekly limit.

While employers are required by law to provide non-exempt employees with meal and rest breaks, FLSA does not regulate exempt employees, as most of its provisions apply only to non-exempt employees.

How Many Meal Breaks Can I Have in a Day?

As a non-exempt employee working for more than five hours, you are entitled to one 30-minute unpaid, off-duty meal break. If you work more than 10 hours a day on all workdays, your employer must provide a second meal break of 30 minutes. This second meal break must be provided before your 10th hour of work.

What Are My Employer’s Legal Obligations in Providing My Meal Break?

The employer will:

  • Relieve you and other employees of all duties.
  • Relinquish control over your activities.
  • Provide the opportunity to take your 30-minute break without any interruptions.
  • Not require you to stay on the premises during the break.


It is your employer’s obligation to provide you with freedom during your meal period and relieve you of all duties. Employees are relieved of all duties and can leave the work location during their half-hour lunch break, which may be unpaid and not considered working hours.

Employers can face severe consequences if they deny an employee their breaks or do not pay them for working during these rest breaks.

Are Meal Breaks Paid?

It is not required by California law for employers to pay employees for meal breaks. However, if you are considered “on-duty”, an agreement can be reached between you and your manager stating that meal breaks will be paid.

What Is a Rest Break?

Per California law, non-exempt employees who work three-and-a-half (3 ½) or more hours in a day are entitled to a rest break. They are entitled to ten minutes of rest period for each four (4) hours. These breaks are to be taken within each 4-hour period.

Are Rest Breaks Paid?

Yes. Unlike meal breaks, rest breaks are paid. They are counted as time worked and employers should not deduct wages for employees taking rest breaks.

An Employment Attorney Can Help with Your Potential Meal and Rest Break Issues

Kohanchi Law’s legal team is here to provide relentless advocacy for your rights. It’s imperative to understand the requirements and the conditions of your case. Kohanchi Law is here to secure the best possible outcome for you and hold your employer accountable for any potential meal and rest break violations. 

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