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What do employers need to know about employee meal breaks?

On Behalf of | Apr 27, 2022 | Meal Periods

Employees are required by law to be given various breaks during their shifts. California employers need to know the applicable laws and apply them. There are also some special circumstances employers should be aware of.

In California, employees who work five hours or more in a day are required to have an uninterrupted meal break of thirty (30) minutes (or more) before the end of the fifth hour of work. If the employee works less than six hours in that day, they have the option to waive their meal period with the mutual consent of the employer. This waiver should be in writing.

A second meal period of at least 30 minutes is also required if the employee works at least 10 hours. This meal period must be taken before the end of the tenth hour of work. An employee who works 10 to 12 hours can waive his or her second meal period if he or she has not waived his or her first meal period.

Employees must be permitted to leave the premises for both meal breaks and rest breaks.

How is pay handled for meal breaks?

Meal breaks are unpaid, as long as the employee is completely relieved of their duties. If the employee is expected to or required to perform any work, they must be paid for the time, which will count as part of the hours worked for the day. Under very specific circumstances, employers may agree, in writing, with employees to provide on-duty meal breaks. It must be noted in writing and is only acceptable when the nature of the job doesn’t allow for full relief of duties. All employers must ensure that their workers get all the breaks they’re due.