In California, many employees have their right to have regular meal and rest periods violated by their employer. California rest break laws protect employees from unfair and illegal wage and hour practices. If you are an employee that has been denied regular meal and rest breaks, you may be entitled to recover compensation from your employer.

Can an Employee Sue an Employer for not Providing Meal and Rest Breaks?

Yes. An employee’s right to meal breaks and rest periods is protected by California law. California’s Labor Code Sections 512, 226.7 and Wage Order No. 5 apply. In California, if an employee works for five or more hours consecutively, then by law the employer must provide a 30-minute meal break. If the employee works 10 hours or more consecutively, they are entitled to another 30-minute meal break. Employees can waive these breaks for shifts between 5-6 hours and 10-12 hours, but those waivers must be voluntary.

To qualify as a meal period under the law, the employee must have 30-minutes of uninterrupted break time where they are free to leave the premises and are relieved of all of their work duties for the duration of the break. Also, the first meal period must begin before the employee has worked for 5 hours.

In addition to meal breaks, employees are also entitled to regular rest breaks. For shifts between 3.5 and 6 hours, employees are entitled to one rest break; for shifts between 6 and 10 hours they are entitled to two rest breaks.; and for shifts between 10 and 14 hours, they are entitled to three rest breaks. The breaks must be at least 10 minutes long after the employee arrives at the place of rest (time spent walking to and from the rest area is not counted as part of the 10 minutes).

Employees in California cannot sue an employer for not giving them breaks if the employee chooses to work through their meal break and is paid their regular hourly wage for doing so, but employers cannot create incentives for employees to skip their breaks. Also, although employers must provide for breaks, they do not have the duty to ensure that the employee is taking them.

Rest Break Violations You Need To Know

There are several types of situations in which the employer’s actions will warrant a lawsuit based on missed breaks. These include:

  • If an employee is not given rest breaks
  • If an employee is not given meal breaks
  • If an employee is give short or late meal breaks
  • If an employee is given a meal break but is unable to leave the premises during it
  • If an employee is given a break but forced to complete work tasks for any portion of that break
  • If an employee works 3.5 or more consecutive hours without a 10-minute paid rest break
  • If an employee works 5 or more consecutive hours without a 30-minute meal break
  • If an employee works 6 or more hours without a two 10-minute paid rest breaks
  • If an employee works 10 or more consecutive hours without two 30-minute breaks

Damages You Need To Know About

If an employee is denied legally mandated meal and rest breaks, the employee is entitled to compensation from the employer. For every break missed, the employer must compensate the employee for an hour of paid work. The employee may also be entitled to court costs, attorney fees and other types of compensation that the court may determine. If you think you may have a claim against your employer for wage and hour violations, contact a qualified labor and employment lawyer to help protect your rights and receive the compensation to which you are entitled.

Denied Breaks? Get Help

Employees who have been denied their breaks have the right to pursue compensation from their employers. Those who would like to obtain a free confidential case evaluation from our California employee attorneys may do so by calling 949-724-9200 today. Our attorneys have helped recover more than $200,000,000 and provide their services on contingency, meaning you don’t pay unless your case is won.