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Understanding California Rest Break Laws

As an employee in California, you’re entitled to various rights, and one of them is being able to enjoy breaks. However, the state’s meal and rest break laws can seem very technical, and there are some details you might not be aware of.

It’s best to learn all you can about your employer’s obligations regarding meal periods so that you’ll know if you are being treated fairly or not. Here’s a quick rundown of what you should know:

Meal and Rest Breaks Are Different

California is one of the few states that require employers to provide two types of breaks. The first is a 30-minute meal break given to employees who work for at least five hours. If they are to work for 10 hours, they are entitled to a second 30-minute meal break.

If the nature of the job would prevent the employee from taking a break from their duties, then the company can provide an on-duty meal period. A good example is when a secretary needs to eat at their desk because they’ll need to answer the phone immediately if it rings. That said, the worker must agree to the offer in writing.

The second type is rest breaks. Employers are required to provide their workers with a paid 10-minute break for every four hours of work. If it’s possible, these should be taken in the middle of a work period. Take note that these are not required for those who work for less than three and a half hours.

Lactation Breaks Exist

Companies must grant nursing workers lactation breaks so they can produce breast milk for their infants. These breaks can coincide with rest and meal breaks. Keep in mind that employees who are nursing can’t seek payment for lactation breaks taken outside other existing ones. They should also be provided a lactation space within the premises where they can privately produce milk.

Employers are at risk of severe consequences if they fail to provide lactation accommodation, including breaks, to employees who are nursing. They’d be required to pay a minimum of $100 for each count of the violation.

You Can Claim Compensation for Missed Breaks

If your employer deprives you of breaks, you can file a wage claim with the California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). Once filed, the DLSE will issue citations to your company requiring it to give you compensation. You’re only given a three-year timeframe (starting from the date of the alleged violation) to file one.

It’s ideal to get a lawyer when planning to pursue these types of claims to get their opinion on whether there are valid grounds to continue and the likelihood of you prevailing. They can negotiate settlements for you and, if necessary, represent you in court.

Talk to an Experienced Lawyer

If your employer won’t let  you take breaks or if you think that you’re being mistreated by your employer in other ways, then it’s best to talk to a competent lawyer. Haffner Law’s team of attorneys has a proven track record of providing top-notch legal services to individuals seeking compensation for mistreatment in the workplace. Get in touch with us today at 1-844-HAFFNER to schedule a free consultation.


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$ 97,284,817

Class Action / Rest Break


Bad Faith

$ 8,820,000

Brain Injury


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