California Meal and Rest Breaks: The 2019 Labor Laws You Need to Know
As a California worker, you are entitled to meal and break periods. Here’s your guide to California meal and rest breaks in 2019 and how you can understand if your employer is violating them.
Are you a working member of the community in California? Have you ever worked a long, full day, forgoing your meals and your mental health?
Has your employer ever made you feel guilty for needing to take a rest?
If so, you may be a candidate for some compensation.
There are laws about California meal and rest breaks meant to protect you as a worker. You have rights—like the right to eat lunch or take a breather.
And if those rights are in violation, it’s time to speak up!
You may not only help yourself but for future employees, too.
California labor laws could change at any moment. It’s important to stay as up-to-date as possible. Here’s what’s in effect this year.
A Look at Labor Laws
First, what are labor laws?
The Department of Labor—or DOL—enforces over 180 federal laws. These laws protect the rights of almost 10 million employers and 125 million workers. They include anything from worker’s comp, to wage standards, to safety regulations.
If an employer violates these laws, they’re subject to lawsuits, owing compensation, and more. Every business needs to be aware of their legal responsibility.
Do you suspect that your meal and rest breaks have gotten violated? Have you gotten denied your allotted time? Has an employer asked you to work through a break or cut it short?
Your situation sounds like one that calls for legal help.
But let’s get a better grasp of the specifics.
California Meal and Rest Breaks: A 2019 Update
If you are a non-exempt employee, you have certain rights regarding meals and rests. These are two separate rights. Exempt employees meet these conditions:
- Must receive a salary, not minimum wage
- Must perform executive, administrative, and/or professional tasks in their position
- Doesn’t receive overtime pay
- May be an intern, contractor, volunteer, etc.
If you receive hourly pay, it’s likely you are a non-exempt employee and subject to the following labor laws.
Meal Break Laws
If an employee works for 5 hours, they must receive a meal break that is no less than 30 minutes. If they work for 4.5 hours, it’s necessary to round up to 5. What if their shift is only 6 hours long?
With employee and employer agreement, the employee can waive their right to have a meal break. But if an employee works for 10 hours, it’s required to take not one, but 2 meal breaks of 30 minutes each.
Again, an employee can choose to waive one of the 2 meal breaks. To do this, they cannot work more than 12 hours. After that, they have to take their second break.
Meal breaks are unpaid. They can be on or off the property.
Were you asked by an employer to skip a meal, cut a meal short, or work during a meal? Then your rights were likely compromised.
Rest Break Laws
An employer must give their employees undisturbed rest breaks. These are paid breaks throughout the day that allow you to decompress and breathe a little.
For every 4 hours worked, an employee should receive a 10-minute rest break. This should remain undisturbed by the employer. If an employee’s shift is 3.5 hours, the employer should round to 4 and give them a rest break.
As with meal breaks, the number of breaks doubles as the hours do. For every 8 hours worked, an employee should get two 10 minute rest breaks. Then, anything after 10 hours calls for 3 breaks.
If you were forced to work through the day without a break, you may be entitled to compensation.
What Compensation Do You Deserve?
California has a fair workplace environment. Although meal and rest breaks aren’t required by federal law, they have chosen to enact them through state law.
They are one in 19 states that provide employee meal breaks. They are also one in 7 states providing employee rest breaks.
This is great news, but it doesn’t mean some businesses don’t slip through the cracks. Some companies violate their employees’ rights, leaving them hungry, concerned, and angry. Although contracts are in place, they disobey the law by mistreating their employees.
When this happens, you deserve compensation. There are many law firms that deal directly with labor laws and workplace fairness. They can help to provide you with a case that brings you justice.
Don’t believe us? Wells Fargo was in a $97.2 million judgment against them for violating—you guessed it—rest breaks.
When an employer violates a break, the penalty is to pay 1 additional hour of pay at the employees’ regular rate. Let’s go through an example.
Say you make the minimum wage at $12 an hour. If you were denied a break for 125 days out of the year, that’s $12 x 125 days. Your employer would owe you—at the least—$1,500.
That’s no small amount of money. Not only that, but there’s the time where you got denied your right to eat or rest. If you think your rights have gotten violated, don’t hesitate to consult a law firm.
Know Your Rights
When it comes to employee rights, California is a progressive state.
They offer $12 an hour minimum wage. They offer time and a half and double time. And California meal and rest breaks ensure that you’re staying healthy and happy.
And that matters. A healthy employee is a better one. So if you’re getting mistreated on the job, know that you can (and should) stand up for yourself.
We’re dedicated to your justice. If your workplace rights were violated, we’re here to help you take the next steps.
Contact us for a free consultation today!