Missed Meal Breaks

Did you know that you are entitled to a meal break?

In California, if you work over 5 hours in a work day your employer is required by law to provide you with the opportunity to take at least a 30 minute meal break.

You and your employer may choose to skip the meal break if you work less than 6 hours in a workday. But you cannot waive the break if you work more than 6 hours and your employer cannot require you to skip the break if you want or need to take it.

If you work more than 10 hours in a day, you are entitled to a second 30 minute meal break.

Meal breaks are unpaid unless you are on duty

In California, meal breaks are typically unpaid. This is why some employees and employers agree to waive the meal break when someone works a short (less than 6 hour) shift.

However, in order for a meal break to be unpaid, the employee must be relieved of all of his/her duties to the business. This means that if an employee is asked to do anything for the employer during the meal break, the break must be a paid break.

You must be free to leave work on your unpaid meal break

If your employer requires you to remain at the work site or work facility, you must be paid for your break even if you aren’t “on duty.” Meal breaks are supposed to be free time for you as an employee to do whatever you want and requiring you to remain at work during unpaid time is illegal.

You must record the actual times when you take your meal break

In California, the exact time when you take your meal break and when you return from your meal break must be recorded. This means that your employer must require employees to record their meal break times in a time-keeping system in order to make sure the law is being followed.

If your employer has denied your meal breaks, asked you to work during an unpaid meal break or required that you stay at work during your break, or not recorded the exact times when meal breaks occurred, you may be entitled to bring an action against your employer to compensate you for your time and force the employer to comply with the law. Call me today to discuss your rights and how we can hold your employer accountable.