California workers entitled to paid break after 5 hours

Frank S. Clowney III

Many hard-working employees in California find a respite in their daily grind during lunchtime, when obligations come to pause and one’s well-being becomes the primary focus. Indeed, state law mandates that employers provide a meal break no shorter than 30 minutes for every 5-hour shift. Companies who fail to comply with state regulations could end up paying out pocket to compensate for neglecting to respect an employee’s right to rest breaks.

Under the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, the Department of Industrial Relations created a standard of accountability to protect employees from being deprived of a lunch break during their work day. Following 5 consecutive hours worked, companies must relieve employees of responsibilities with a minimum break of 30 minutes. Employees have the right to waive such an opportunity if their shift does not exceed 6 hours during the day.

In circumstances where employees are required to remain on the premises of the workplace, meal breaks are to count as hours work and be compensated accordingly. Similarly, when a sole employee is in charge of operations, an on-duty meal period may be permitted as determined through a written mutual agreement between employer and employee.

When an employer fails to provide adequate break times as required by law, that employer must them provide restitution to the employee, in the amount of one hour of regular pay for every workday that a meal break was not provided. Employees in California who have been denied their right to take a lunch within the rules of the law and have failed to receive adequate compensation may enlist the help of an attorney to procure their wages.

Source: State of California, “Meal periods“, January 04, 2015