California Meal and Rest Break Laws

ca meal and rest break laws

You are human, which means you need rest, even at work. In general, the State of California requires employers to make sure they provide sufficient rest and meal breaks for their employees.

If you’re unsure whether your boss is giving you adequate breaks, read along for information about your rights under the CA meal and rest break laws. 

To learn more, contact our California employment lawyers today.

What Breaks Should You Receive? 

The California law normally covers three kinds of breaks:

  • Rest breaks, 
  • Lactation breaks, and
  • Meal breaks.

You might have a right to one or more of these breaks during each shift, so let’s review when your employer must provide them. 

Rest Breaks

You most likely have a right to a rest break each day you work. 

General Rules 

Your employer has to give you a 10-minute paid rest break for every four hours or every major fraction of four hours that you work in a day.

A major fraction of a four-hour period is any work period lasting more than two hours. Your rest break also needs to happen as close as practicable to the middle of a four-hour period.

However, your boss doesn’t have to give you a rest break if your entire shift is shorter than 3.5 hours. 

You cannot be on duty during your rest period, and your employer has to provide rest areas that are separate from the restroom area.

Even though your boss has to provide a break area, you’re not required to use this area during your break—you can leave the premises if you want.


While the above rest break law is pretty standard for most California workers, there are some members of the workforce who are entitled to less and others who are entitled to more.

24-hour residential care facilities can normally limit the rest breaks of their employees. And employees who have strenuous performance jobs involving activities such as swimming, dancing, skating, etc., usually must receive additional rest periods. 

Lactation Breaks

If you are a lactating new parent, your employer has to give you a reasonable amount of break time for expressing milk.

This break time should run concurrently with your usual break time. However, your employer doesn’t have to pay you for lactation time outside of your usual breaks. 

Meal Breaks

California meal and rest break law recognizes that employees also need time to eat during the work day. 

General Rules

In general, your employer has to give you a 30-minute meal break if you work more than five hours in a workday. If you work more than 10 hours, you have to receive two meal breaks

You typically must be off duty and allowed to leave the premises during these breaks. You and your employer can agree to waive your meal break if your shift is six hours or less.

You can also agree to waive your second meal break if your shift is between 10 and 12 hours.

Unlike a rest break, a meal break normally doesn’t have to be paid. However, if the nature of your job warrants it and you and your boss agree in writing, you can have an on-duty meal break that must be paid.

Meal breaks are also paid if you have to remain on your employer’s worksite during your breaks. 


If you are an employee in the motion picture industry, your employer does not have to give meal breaks for work days totaling six or fewer hours. 

Remedies for Break Law Violations

If your boss has violated the California meal and rest break laws, you have a right to compensation.

You can file a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement for this illegal activity. You can also file a lawsuit.

You normally receive an additional hour of pay for each day your employer violates one of the break laws. You can also sue for wrongful termination if your employer fires you for objecting to their break law violations.   

Our Attorneys Are Standing by to Champion Your Rights

Without the help of an experienced attorney, confronting your boss about their poor treatment can be complicated and stressful. At Starpoint Employment Lawyers, our experienced attorneys get results for struggling employees in Southern California. Our top-quality attorneys also give clients one-on-one attention to help make sure our legal solutions fit them best. Contact us online or call us at 310-424-9971 if you need the help of a legal expert.

Author Photo

Aidin Ghavimi

Aidin is a partner at Starpoint LC, Attorneys at Law, and focuses on personal injury and employment law cases in and around Southern California. He earned his Juris Doctorate from the Loyola School of Law and his Bachelor’s from USC. Aidin’s primary goal is to bring justice to his clients and to ensure they are able to move on with their lives after a serious injury.

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