Unpaid Meal/Lunch Break Lawyer | Los Angeles & California

California Lunch Break Attorney: Representing plaintiff employees in actions for recovery of meal period violations throughout California.

Am I entitled to meal/lunch breaks at work?

In California, once an employee has worked more than 5 hours in a workday they are entitled to receive a meal break of at least 30 minutes. Once the employee has worked more than 10 hours in that workday, then they become entitled to a second meal break of at least 30 minutes.

It should be noted however, that these general guidelines may vary subject to the individual wage order of a particular industry.

When am I entitled to receive my meal break?

An employee must be provided a first meal break prior to the end of the 5th hour of work. Where second meal period entitlements apply, employers must provide these after no more than 10 hours of work.

Although rest breaks are (as far as practicable) required to be scheduled in the middle of a shift, meal breaks are not subject to these same requirements.

Am I entitled to payment for any meal breaks my employer provided?

No, an employer is generally not required to compensate you for meal periods. However, as discussed below, employers must relieve you of all work duties throughout the meal period.

Can my employer interrupt my meal break, or ask me to do work during my meal break?

No, under California Labor Code §226.7(b) an employee cannot be required to work during any rest or recovery period. Thus, your employer is not permitted to interrupt your lunch break, or require that you carry out any work during this meal period. Any employer action to the contrary will constitute a meal period violation and will entitle the employee to recover damages.

Do employers have to ensure that employees perform no work during their meal break?

Employers are not under any obligation to “ensure” that their workers do not perform any work during their lunch break. The employer is merely required to relieve the employee of all work duties and will not be held liable for meal period violations should the worker choose, of their own accord, to perform work during their lunch break.

However, if the employer was aware, or should have been aware that the employee was working throughout their lunch period, then the employer may be held liable for the wages earned during those periods.

Can my employer discourage employees from taking lunch breaks?

If your employer directly, or indirectly, discouraged employees from taking lunch breaks, then this may be sufficient grounds to constitute a meal period violation. In such circumstances, an employee may seek to recover a premium payment for such violations.

Can my employer prevent me from leaving the workplace during my lunch break?

Under California law, if an employer prevents you from leaving the workplace during your meal break, then the meal break will be counted as time worked for overtime purposes, even if you were not required to perform work tasks during this time.

However, it should be noted that this is an area of contention, and employers will invariably argue that this position is inconsistent with the relevant IWC wage orders.

How much can I claim for unpaid meal period violations?

If your employer has failed to provide you with meal breaks, you may be entitled to recover 1 additional hour of pay for each workday that the meal break was not provided.

Can I pursue claims for both rest break and meal break violations?

Yes, California Labor Code §226.7 permits employees to claim up to two premium payments per work day. Thus, a plaintiff employee may claim one daily premium payment for an employer’s failure to provide a meal break, in addition to one daily premium payment for an employer’s failure to provide a rest break.

Can I “waive” my meal breaks?

Yes, under certain circumstances, an employer and employee may mutually consent to waive a meal break. Such an agreement may occur when:

  • The work day does not last longer than 6 hours; or
  • The workday is more than 10 hours, but less than 12 hours long, and the employee is waiving their entitlement to a second meal break (after having taken their first meal break).
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