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Best practices: California meal and rest periods

Here are some key points to keep in mind.

Jason Resnick, Senior vice president and general counsel

May 25, 2023

2 Min Read
Farmworkers.Todd Fitchette

If you are an employer in California, it is important to ensure that you are in compliance with the state’s meal and rest laws. Failure to comply with these laws can result in costly penalties and legal action against your company. Here are some key points to keep in mind.

Meal Periods:

  • Employees who work more than 5 hours in a day must be provided with a 30-minute uninterrupted meal break, unless the employee works for fewer than 6 hours in the day and has waived the meal period.

  • If an employee works more than 10 hours in a day, they must be provided a second 30-minute meal period.

  • Meal periods must be provided no later than the end of the employee’s fifth hour of work.

Rest Breaks:

  • Employees are entitled to a 10-minute rest break for every 4 hours worked.

  • Rest breaks should be provided in the middle of each work period as much as possible.

  • Rest breaks should be paid and are considered time worked.

Employer Obligations:

  • Employers must provide a reasonable opportunity for employees to take their meal and rest breaks.

  • Employers must relieve employees of all duties and relinquish control over their activities during meal breaks.

  • Employers must pay an additional hour of pay for each day that an employee’s meal break is not provided or is interrupted, as well as for each day that a rest break is not provided or is interrupted. Showing that the employer has a history of paying meal period premiums is helpful evidence in defending meal period violation claims.

It is important to maintain accurate records, including the date, time, and duration of each break. And rounding time is never permitted when it comes to tracking meal periods if the actual time of the break is in fact less than 30 minutes.

In conclusion, compliance with California’s meal and rest laws is essential for employers to avoid costly penalties and legal action. Employers must provide their employees with reasonable opportunities to take their meal and rest breaks and must pay additional compensation when breaks are not provided or are interrupted. By staying informed and maintaining accurate records, employers can ensure compliance with the law and create a positive work environment for their employees.

About the Author(s)

Jason Resnick

Senior vice president and general counsel, Western Growers

Jason Resnick is senior vice president and general counsel for Western Growers.

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