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When are meal breaks required in California?

Humans need to eat to survive, so it is understandable that people will need to take breaks to eat during a shift at work. California law sets very specific requirements for employers so that employees can eat while they are at work.

Here are some basic points you should know about meal breaks in this state:

When is a break required?

Workers who work more than five hours are required to have a 30-minute meal break. Workers who work at least 10 hours are required to have a second 30-minute meal break.

Are there exceptions to this requirement?

An employee who works no more than six hours can waive the right to a meal break. An employee who works 10 to 12 hours can waive the right to one of the meal breaks, but must take the other. These waivers must be done by mutual consent between the employer and employee, so employers can't force employees to skip meal breaks.

Are meal breaks paid breaks?

Whether a meal break is paid or not depends on what the employee has to do during the break. The employee must be relieved of all work-related duties if he or she has to clock out for the break. If the employee is required to do anything for the business during the meal break, the employee must be compensated at his or her regular wage.

There are some exceptions to these laws. For example, meal periods in the motion picture industry are handled differently from these requirements. If you think that your meal periods aren't being handled in accordance with the law, you might be able to take legal action against your employer.

Source: State of California, Department of Industrial Relations, "Meal periods," accessed July 27, 2017

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