Meal and Rest Periods

MEAL PERIODS

Under California law, non-exempt employees who work more than 6 hours are entitled to receive a 30 minute uninterrupted meal period within the first five (5) hours of their shift. Employees who work more than 10 hours in a day are entitled to a second meal period. In order to qualify as a meal period, employees must be relieved of all duties and permitted to leave the premises.

Some employees who are exempt from California’s overtime laws are still entitled to receive meal and rest periods. These employees include commissioned salespersons and outside salespersons.

Can my employer make me skip my meal periods?

An employer cannot require employees to skip meal periods. In fact, an employer has an affirmative obligation to advise employees of their rights to receive a meal period.

However, employees who work less than 6 hours can choose to waive their meal periods. An employee who works more than 10 hours and less than 12 hours per day can also choose to waive their second meal period provided the employee did not previously waive their first meal period.

What if I didn’t receive a meal period, my meal period was interrupted, or my first meal period was after the fifth hour?

Employees who do not receive a meal period, who receive a late meal period, or whose meal period are interrupted are entitled to a meal period premium in the amount of 1 hour’s worth of pay at their regular rate of pay subject to a limit of one meal period premium per day.

An employee’s regular rate includes an employee’s hourly base pay, commissions, non-discretionary bonuses, piece rate earnings, and shift differentials. If an employee is paid a salary, there hourly base pay is calculated as 1/40th of their weekly salary. There are other types of compensation that under certain circumstances employers are required to include when calculating the regular rate.

REST PERIODS

Employees are entitled to receive an off-duty 10 minute paid rest period for every major fraction of four hours worked. In order to qualify as a rest period, employees must be relieved of all duties and permitted to leave the premises. The term every major fraction of four hours worked is a complex legal term that was recently interpreted by the California Supreme Court and is summarized below:

What if I didn’t receive my rest periods?

Employees who do not receive a rest period or who are not relieved of all of their duties are entitled to a rest period premium in the amount of 1 hour’s worth of pay at their regular rate of pay subject to a limit of one meal period premium per day.

An employee’s regular rate includes an employee’s regular hourly pay, commissions, non-discretionary bonuses, piece rate earnings, and shift differentials. There are other types of compensation that under certain circumstances employers are required to include when calculating the regular rate.

I am paid a piece rate, how does my employer compensate me for rest periods?

Piece rate workers are entitled to receive separate compensation for rest periods. Since rest periods are paid breaks, an employer who does not separately compensate piece-rate employees for rest periods must pay the employee both the unpaid wages associated with the rest periods and a rest period premium for failing to provide a compliant break.

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