From the Hotline: California Nonexempt Employee Meal Breaks

Question: Can California nonexempt employees waive lunch breaks? What are the requirements for the two rest breaks for an 8-hour shift?

Answer: In California, if employees work more than 6 hours in a workday, they may not waive their meal period. According to the California Labor Code, an employer may not employ an employee for a work period of more than 5 hours per day without providing the employee with a meal period of no less than 30 minutes.

However, if the total work period per day of the employee is no more than 6 hours, the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of both the employer and employee. An employer may not employ an employee for a work period of more than 10 hours per day without providing the employee with a second meal period of no less than 30 minutes. However, if the total hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee only if the first meal period was not waived.

In California, employees are entitled to a 10-minute paid rest period for every 4 hours worked. Each rest period is supposed to take place as close to the middle of each 4-hour work period as possible.

Example of Meal and Rest Periods in an 8-Hour Shift

John Doe is scheduled to work 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. He is allowed two 10-minute paid rest periods and one 30-minute unpaid meal period during his 8-hour shift. John Doe takes his rest and meal periods as follows, in compliance with California meal and rest period requirements:

10:15 a.m.: 10-minute rest period
12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m.: 30-minute unpaid meal period
3:30 p.m.: 10-minute rest period

John Doe received his meal period before the end of the 5th working hour and both his rest periods in the middle of each 4 hours worked.

Sources:

www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/faq_mealperiods.htm
www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/faq_restperiods.htm