It is common for employers to expect workers will put in a full day, but not without breaks. In fact, California’s labor laws contain strict guidelines that mandate that employees receive a certain amount of time for both meal and rest breaks, depending on the length of their shift.
At David Yeremian & Associates, Inc., a Glendale, California, employment law firm focusing on wage and hour issues, we serve as dedicated advocates, speaking out for clients who have been required to put in long hours without the breaks they deserve.
Meal and Rest Breaks: Employee Entitlements
Federal law requires employers to provide employees with certain breaks throughout a shift. For example, there are specific lunch break laws and specific rest break laws in place to protect workers. These breaks don’t always have to be paid breaks, but they’re certainly required by law. When your employer doesn’t provide you with legally required break times, you could have legal recourse. You might want to ask your employer directly about what the law requires – or you may need to talk to an attorney who understands federal and state labor laws.
What About Lactation Accommodations?
Your employer must provide you with lactation accommodations if you request them. This break time can run concurrently with your regular break time. That means if you’re already scheduled to take a break at 10:45 a.m., you can use that time to express breast milk for your child. Your employer doesn’t have to provide you with an additional break to do so. If you do get an additional break, your employer doesn’t have to pay you for it.
Related: FLSA Regulations on Pay
Leveling The Playing Field For Employees Denied Meal and Rest Breaks
The law in California outlines the breaks that employers are required to provide for all nonexempt employees — which includes most employees who are not professionals, executives or administrators. These breaks include:
- One 10-minute rest break during a shift lasting between 3.5 hours and six hours
- Two 10-minute rest breaks during a shift lasting between six hours and 10 hours
- One 30-minute meal break during a shift lasting more than five hours
- Two 30-minute meal breaks during a shift lasting more than 10 hours
Allowing a worker to eat while they are still working, rather than providing an actual break from work, is a meal break violation. Meal breaks must be uninterrupted time while the worker is off-duty.
Related: California Employee Rights Handbook
What if Your Employer Doesn’t Let You Take Meal or Rest Breaks?
If you’ve worked a long enough shift, you’re entitled to meal and rest breaks unless you’re an exempt employee. Sometimes employers force people to work through lunch, or to skip mandatory breaks, in order to get a job done – but if you’re a nonexempt employee, your employer is violating the law. (You can find out whether you’re a nonexempt employee by checking whether you’re a misclassified employee or by calling a Glendale employment attorney for guidance.)
For an employer to follow the law regarding breaks, it must:
- Completely relieve you from duty while you’re on break
- Let you leave without controlling your activities
- Allow you a reasonable opportunity to have an uninterrupted break (either for a meal or for a period of rest)
Your employer cannot discourage or prevent you from taking the breaks you’re allowed to take by law.
If your employer does violate your rights when it comes to meal and rest breaks, you could have a legal claim.
Denied Meal or Rest Breaks?
At David Yeremian & Associates, Inc., we work closely with employees who have been denied their breaks, learning about the details of their situation. Then, we advise them on their options and answer any of their questions, free of charge. We do not collect a fee unless we win their case.
Our lawyers understand how difficult it is to take on your employer, especially when you rely on your paycheck to make ends meet. We have the experience and skill necessary to tip the scales in your favor and help you secure compensation for the days you worked without breaks.