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California Lunch Break Laws



A new job, new hours, a promotion, a transfer, and suddenly you’re the new employee. The last thing you want to do is rock the boat, especially when it comes to taking breaks. It’s easy to want to impress your new bosses, but working through mealtime isn’t good for you or your work. If you live in California, you’re in luck. It is one of the few states which requires employers to give their workers full lunch breaks.


Federal Law


At a Federal level, the rule of thumb is that an employee is paid for hours worked. Which means an employee can take a break, but will not be paid for that time. Many employees attempt to work around this by eating at their desk or while working, ensuring they get paid for the entirety of their work day. In California, you’re entitled to a full break, with no work, for your meal.


So how long of a break can I take?


For every five hours you’ve worked, your employer is obligated to give you a half hour lunch break. If you work fewer than six hours in a day, you may waive that break. Other breaks covered by California labor and employment law include a second half-hour meal break for a shift of ten or more hours as well as a ten minute paid breaks for every four hours worked.


If I work through my break, may I leave early?


No. If you choose to work through your lunch break, you’ll be paid for that time, but it does not require your employer to release you from a shift thirty minutes early. To be on duty during your lunch break, as well as be paid for the time, you’ll need a written agreement with your employer. The written agreement must include that you have the right to revoke the agreement at any time.


What happens if I’m denied breaks?


If you’re denied these breaks in California, you may be entitled to compensation. California lunch break laws are there to protect you. If your employer denies you break time, they are breaking the law. If you are fearful of or have been the victim of, workplace retaliation for asking for your breaks, then it is time to contact an employment lawyer. They will be able to guide you through what your rights in the workplace include.


Are you looking for an attorney to assist you? Contact Tanya Gomerman today at 415-545-8608 for a free consultation.

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