California Break Laws: What You Need To Know and Do

California Break Laws: What You Need To Know and Do

Under California law, Industrial Welfare Commission wage orders required employers to allow their employees to take a break or rest period. The rest time is designed to be “net” ten minutes, meaning that it starts when the worker moves to a suitable location away from the workspace. The rest period is based on the total hours worked each day. This could be at least once every four hours or a significant portion of them. 

If you believe your rights regarding meal and rest breaks have been violated, seek guidance from experienced California meal and rest break lawyers, as they can provide you with personalized advice, making sure your rights as an employee are protected. 

In this discussion, we will explore what California break laws are and provide you with the necessary information you need to know and the steps you can take if your employer violates these laws.

Overview of California Break Laws

California break laws require employers to provide unpaid meal breaks and paid rest breaks to their employees, depending on the length of their work shift. According to the law, if you work for more than five hours, you’re entitled to a 30-minute unpaid meal break. This meal break must be provided to you no later than the end of your fifth hour of work.

If you work for more than three and a half hours, you’re entitled to a paid rest break of at least 10 minutes. This rest break should be given to you for every four hours of work, or a major fraction thereof.

These breaks must be uninterrupted, meaning you should be free from any work-related duties during this time. Employers who fail to comply with these laws may be subject to penalties and legal action. You must be aware of your rights regarding breaks in California.

Types of Breaks Required by California Law

These breaks include meal breaks and rest breaks, both of which are to guarantee the well-being and productivity of workers.

Meal breaks, also known as lunch breaks, are required for employees who work for more than five hours a day. According to California law, employees must be provided with a 30-minute unpaid meal break. During this break, employees are free to do as they please and aren’t required to perform any work duties. If the nature of the work prevents employees from being relieved of all duties during the meal break, then the break must be paid.

Rest breaks are shorter breaks provided to employees during their work shifts. Employees are entitled to a paid 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked. These breaks are designed to give employees a chance to rest and recharge to make sure that they can maintain focus and productivity throughout the day.

Duration and Frequency of Breaks

Now let’s look at the duration and frequency of breaks required under California break laws. In California, employees are entitled to meal breaks and rest breaks, and the duration and frequency of these breaks depend on the length of the work shift.

For meal breaks, if the work shift is more than five hours, employees must be provided with a meal break of at least 30 minutes, but if the work shift is less than six hours, the meal break can be waived with the mutual consent of both the employer and employee. 

In terms of rest breaks, employees should be provided in the middle of each work period, if possible. If the total work period is less than three and a half hours, no rest break is required. One rest break is required if the work shift exceeds three and a half hours but doesn’t exceed six hours. For work shifts between six and ten hours, two rest breaks are required. If the work shift is between ten and 14 hours, three rest breaks are required.

Now that you’re aware of the duration and frequency of breaks required under California break laws, make sure that your employer is providing you with the appropriate breaks according to the length of your work shift. It’s your right as an employee to have these breaks, so don’t hesitate to speak up if you feel that your rights are being violated.

Rights and Protections for Employees

Employees in California have certain rights and protections under the state’s break laws. These laws are in place to make sure that employees are treated fairly and have the opportunity to take breaks and rest periods during their workday.

One important right is the requirement for employers to provide paid rest breaks to employees. According to California labor law, employees are entitled to a paid 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked. This means that if you work an eight-hour shift, you’re entitled to two rest breaks.

Employees are also entitled to an unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes for every five hours worked. Employers aren’t required to pay employees for their meal breaks. These breaks are meant to allow employees to rest and recharge during their workday.

Be aware of these rights and make sure that your employer is complying with California break laws. If you believe that your rights are being violated, you may be able to take legal action to protect your rights and seek compensation for any damages you may have suffered.

Steps to Take if Your Employer Violates the Laws

If you find that your employer isn’t following California break laws, take appropriate steps to address the situation and protect your rights as an employee. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Document the violations: Keep a record of the date, time, and duration of each break violation. Note down any witnesses or evidence that supports your claim.
  2. Speak to your employer. Start by talking to your employer about the issue. Explain the specific violations and how they’re affecting you. Allow your employer to rectify the situation.
  3. File a complaint: If your employer doesn’t take any action or continues to violate break laws, you can file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office. You can do this by completing a Wage Claim Form or by submitting a complaint online.
  4. Seek legal advice: If filing a complaint doesn’t resolve the issue, you should consult with an employment attorney who specializes in break-law violations. They can guide you through your rights and help you take legal action if necessary.


So, if you’re working in California, know and understand the state’s break laws. The California break laws are designed to protect the health and safety of employees and prevent fatigue and stress. By complying with these laws, employers can also benefit from improved productivity, morale, and retention of their employees. Both employers and employees should understand and follow these laws, and they should seek legal advice or assistance if they have any questions or concerns. As an employee, you have rights and protections when it comes to rest break laws, and if your employer violates these laws, there are steps you can take to address the issue.