MEAL PERIODS, REST BREAKS & RECOVERY PERIODS
California law provides all hourly employees with the opportunity to take unpaid duty-free meal period(s). Any non-exempt employee who works more than five (5) hours in a day is entitled to take an unpaid thirty (30) minute duty-free meal period. An employee who works over ten (10) hours in a day is entitled to take a second, unpaid thirty (30) minute duty-free meal period.
A first meal period should begin no later than the end of the employee’s fifth (5th) hour or work, and a second meal period should begin no later than the end of the employee’s tenth (10th) hour of work. Only in limited circumstances, discussed below, can meal periods be waived. Employees are completely relieved of their job responsibilities during any meal period. For this reason, employees must record the beginning and ending time of a meal period in the timekeeping system every day. Employees may be asked to confirm in writing that they have been provided all their daily meal period(s) during the pertinent pay period or, in the alternative, identify any meal periods they missed.
Having a meal period is the legal right of an employee and the employer cannot impede or discourage the taking of a meal period directly or indirectly.
An employer is liable for premium pay penalties unless the employee voluntarily chooses not to take an unpaid meal period, and continue working.
Waiver of Meal Period. Employees may waive their meal period(s) only under the following circumstances: If employees will complete their work day in six (6) hours, employees may waive their meal periods. Employees who work over ten (10) hours in a day may waive their second meal period only if they take their first meal period and they do not work more than twelve (12) hours that day.
Meal periods are unpaid and not counted as worked hours and, thus, employees are required to record their meal periods on their timesheets or time cards Employees may not waive meal periods or rest break to shorten their workday or accumulate meal periods or rest breaks for any other purpose.
Employees may also waive their meal period(s) if the nature of the work performed by the employee prevents the employee from being relieved of all duty; and only after the employee signs an on-duty meal period agreement which verifies in writing that the nature of the employee’s job prevents him or her from being relieved of all duty in order to enjoy meal period(s).
California law provides all non-exempt employees with the opportunity to take a ten (10) minute rest break for every four (4) hours worked (or major fraction thereof), which should be taken so far as practicable in the middle of each four (4) hour work period. Employers generally will not authorize a rest break for employees whose total daily work time is less than three and one-half (3½) hours. Rest breaks may not be combined with meal periods.
Rest breaks are counted as worked hours and, thus, employees are not required to record their rest breaks on their timesheets or time cards. Rest breaks may not be waived to shorten the workday or to be accumulated for any other purpose.
COOL-DOWN RECOVERY BREAKS
California law provides all non-exempt employees who work outdoors in high heat conditions with the opportunity to take a cool-down period of no less than five (5) minutes as necessary under the employer’s heat illness prevention program.
PENALTIES FOR NOT PROVIDING BREAKS
California law severely punishes employers who do not allow their employees to enjoy rest breaks, meal periods or recovery periods.
If an employer does not allow an employee to take a required break, the employee is entitled to receive a penalty payment equivalent to one hour of pay for every missed rest break, meal period or recovery period. Other monetary and criminal penalties could also apply to the employer.