Current California Lunch Break and Rest Period Employee Labor Laws

The Santa Rosa Labor Law Attorneys at Beck Law P.C. work with both employees and employers in regard to all areas governing compliance with California Labor / Wage and Hour Laws.  So as not to violate current California lunch break and rest period employee labor laws, as of April 12, 2012 it is a California requirement that all non-exempt employees get uninterrupted meal breaks and rest periods according to a decision by the Supreme Court (Brinker vs. Superior Court) See Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004.  The Petaluma Employment Law Lawyers at Beck Law P.C. suggest to employers that all Employee Handbooks and Policies are updated by an experienced labor attorney to ensure compliance with these new laws so that overtime violations will be avoided.  In turn, we encourage employees to contact an experienced labor and employment lawyer, such as Beck Law P.C., if they feel their legal rights are being violated.


The employer must relieve the employee of all duty:  The Wage and Hour Labor Law Attorneys Beck Law P.C. interpret this to mean that literally ALL NON-EXEMPT EMPLOYEE DUTY must be relieved. We encourage employers to have built in contingencies to their policies to ensure that non-exempt employees do not eat at their desks or take any phone calls or instructions while they are “clocked out”.

The employer must relinquish control over all activities of the employee:  The Ukiah Labor Attorneys at Beck Law P.C. suggest all of our business clients provide a break area for employees and to encourage non-exempt employees to take a full break as well as leave the premises whenever necessary.

The employer must permit an uninterrupted 30-minute break:  The Lake County Labor and Employment Lawyers at Beck Law P.C. suggest our business clients provide a break schedule and appoint an Office Supervisor that monitors all non-exempt employees to make sure breaks are taken in a timely manner.  All non-exempt employees must “clock in” and “clock out” and are never permitted to work at home or “off clock.”

The employer must not impede or discourage the employee from taking their 30-minute meal break:  In order to demonstrate compliance with this law as well as avoid meal period violations, the attorneys at Beck Law P.C. suggests employers hire experienced employment law attorneys to prepare the appropriate legal language to be included in all Employer Handbooks and Policies that clearly outlines the break schedule stating that employees have a responsibility to take their breaks in a timely manner.  Additionally, we encourage fellow employees to never discuss work related matters with a non-exempt employee while they are taking a break.

All Non-Exempt Employee Lunch Breaks and Rest Periods Must be Provided and Taken in a Timely MannerCurrent California labor laws for rest breaks and meal periods require that the employer provide non-exempt employees with a 30 minute uninterrupted meal break after 5 hours of work (unless the employee’s workday is completed within 6 hours), and a 10 minute rest break time after each 3 ½ hours of work.

10 Minute Breaks Must Be Paid By Employer.  Not only must an employer require a non-exempt employee to take an un-interrupted lunch or Rest break, but the employer must pay for it, according to current labor laws.  rest break violations and meal break violations can occur if a non-exempt employee is interrupted during a break or meal period and said employee is entitled to additional compensation for working through a meal break.  In addition to the one hour of pay, the extra compensation can increase the amount of overtime that you are due.

Employers May Not Pressure or Coerce the Non-Exempt Employee to Forgo a Lunch or Rest BreakOnly if ALL of the above are met will an employee be deemed to have taken a break. In particular, the California Supreme Court noted that the “wage order and the governing statute do not countenance an employer’s exerting coercion against the taking of, creating incentives to forego, or otherwise encouraging the skipping of legally protected breaks.”

What this means, in simple terms is:  A written company policy stating that you permit meal breaks and rest periods will not be legal if you do not enforce your employees to take timely breaks, that are monitored with accurate time keeping records that demonstrate that non-exempt employees “clocked in” and “clocked out” on time, every work day.  Even on extremely busy days, managers must not pressure non-exempt employees to work through breaks and must ensure rest and meal breaks are taken on time and un-interrupted, or compensate the employee in the amount of one hour’s wage for each interruption or violation.

Missed Meal Breaks and Rest Periods are considered a Wage and Not a PenaltyIn Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. the courts decided that missed meal breaks are considered a wage and not a penalty. What this means is under California labor law code meal break rule violations can be collected by employees for 3 years and sometimes 4 years under the California unfair competition statute, whereas a penalty is only collectable for 1 year.

What are the Timing Requirements that Comply with First or Second Meal Periods during the Workday?

Train your management to keep in mind the 5-hour mark.  When an employee works more than five hours, a meal period must be provided no later than the end of the employee’s fifth hour of work (simply stated:  no later than the start of the employee’s sixth hour of work).  When an employee works of a period of more than 10 hours, a second meal period must be provided no later than the end of the employee’s tenth hours of work (no later than the start of the employee’s eleventh hour of work).


The information on this website should not be considered to be legal advice, nor construed to be the formation of any manner of attorney client relationship. Prior to taking any form of legal action, please consult with an attorney experienced in the appropriate area of law germane to your situation. Case results and testimonials presented on or any of its related websites are germane to the facts present for each individual case and is not a promise of similar outcomes for any other cases. This website is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of California.