California Lunch Break Law 2024 – Meal & Rest Break Laws

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With the holidays over and a new year in progress, businesses are back in operation. Since many businesses have hired new employees to begin the year, they’ve also had to explain and adhere to California employment law. This includes meal and rest break laws, which give all employees in the state the right to take breaks in order to eat and rest.

Whether you’re a business owner in California or someone beginning a new job, it’s important to understand the state’s employment laws and what you can do if the law isn’t being followed.

Meal and Rest Break Laws Explained

California law states that all employees working longer than five hours a day must receive an unpaid lunch break lasting 30 minutes. If an employee’s workday lasts six hours or less, they have the ability to waive this right if they choose to. Employees who work more than ten hours a day can receive a second meal break also lasting 30 minutes. However, employees can also refrain from taking this break if they did not waive their first break or if their workday lasts less than 12 hours. Employers are able to mandate these breaks be taken at their work location if they offer employees additional wages as compensation. You cannot be forced to work during any meal break, and you are also unable to work through your meal breaks in order to leave work early.

For places where employees are required to have meal breaks on their premises, there must be a suitable place for this purpose. The area must also have an adequate supply of potable water, soap, and other cleaning materials. However, this does not apply to certain employees in fields such as milling and construction.

Employees are also allowed one rest break lasting ten minutes for every four hours they work. These breaks count as time worked, meaning employees must be paid during this time. Also, these breaks must be placed in the middle of their employee’s shifts. You cannot be required to work during your breaks. However, you are allowed to skip your rest break on your own terms.


As with other employment laws in California, some employees are exempt from the meal and break laws, including independent contractors, certain white-collar employees, and unionized employees. Unionized employees usually have different overtime hours and wages determined in a collective bargaining agreement, meaning they are exempt from the normal rest and meal break laws. White-collar employees who work in executive, creative, or administrative positions may also be exempt from the laws.

Independent contractors are exempt from these rules as well; however, certain businesses sometimes misclassify these employees in order to avoid paying overtime wages. If this is the case, you should speak with a Overtime, Rest break lawyer immediately.

What to Do If the Law is Broken

If your employer refuses to allow you to take a meal break, you are to be paid one hour of pay at your regular rate of compensation for each day you are not given a meal break. If your employer refuses to do this as well, you can file a claim and pursue legal action.

If you attempt to speak with your employer about your meal and rest breaks and are either retaliated against or discriminated against, talk to a lawyer in order to determine your next best option. This is also recommended if you believe your employer is engaging in illegal activity regarding your breaks.

FAQs About Lunch Break Law

Who Is Exempt from California Meal and Rest Break Laws?

Unionized employees, independent contractors, and some white-collar employees are exempt from California’s meal and rest break laws. For unionized employees, this is due to their overtime hours and rates specified in another agreement. Independent contractors are also exempt from these laws, but it’s required that businesses properly classify employees to avoid legal action.

What Are the Meal and Rest Break Requirements for California Employees?

All employees must receive a meal and rest breaks depending on how many hours they work in a day. Employees working longer than five hours in a day must be given a 30-minute meal break, and they are entitled to a second break if their shift lasts over ten hours. For every four hours worked, employees are also entitled to a ten-minute rest break. Both meal and rest breaks may be waived by the employee.

Can You Combine Meal and Rest Breaks in California?

No, you are not allowed to combine your meal and rest breaks as one extended break. Simply put, this is unfair to other employees and not legally allowed. The reason breaks are separated is to ensure employees are receiving adequate rest throughout their shifts. Employers are not allowed to combine your breaks for you, and you cannot ask to combine them either.

Is It Legal to Work Eight Hours Without a Break in California?

According to law, it is illegal to work eight hours straight without being offered a break in California. Employers must provide meal and rest breaks aligning with their employees’ schedules. However, if an employee chooses to waive their meal or rest breaks, they may do so should their employer allow it. This agreement should be done in writing to avoid severe legal consequences. If an employee works a shift with two meal breaks included, they must take one meal break.

MM Law Can Help

California has enacted several laws to protect its employees who are providing services to our community. Meal and rest breaks allow employees to avoid feeling fatigued, thereby keeping them in great condition to continue providing great work. You deserve to be treated fairly by your employer, but sometimes, businesses take advantage of employees who may not understand their rights. If you feel you are being wronged by an employer, the team at MM Law can help.

We will work closely with you to ensure your rights are being respected. Our team will review your case and determine the best path forward. To learn more about California meal and rest break laws, or if you need legal representation, contact us today.

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