Meal & Rest Breaks in San Francisco
Meal and Rest Breaks in California
Meal and rest breaks are required in California. This table lays out how it works. If you are unable to take a meal or rest break, your employer is required to pay you an extra hour’s pay.
|Break Type||Break Length||Paid or Not Paid||Penalty for Missed Break|
|Rest Breaks||10 Minutes||Paid||One Hour's Pay|
|Meal Breaks||30 Minutes||Not Paid||One Hour's Pay|
An unpaid 30 minute meal break is required after 5 hours of work. The meal break must start before the end of the 5th hour of work. You can agree to waive your right to a meal break, but only if you work less than 6 hours. You are entitled to a second 30 minute unpaid meal break if you work more than 10 hours in a shift. You cannot be required to work during your meal break.
If you continue to perform your job duties while on your meal break — such as answering phones, responding to emails, supervising others, etc. — then you are entitled to be paid for that time. However, your employer cannot force you to work during your meal break, and any agreement you make with your employer to do so can be revoked at any time if you so choose. Click here for information on meal breaks.
You are entitled to a 10 minute rest break if you work more than 3.5 hours. If you work more than 6 hours, you are entitled to a second rest break. You are entitled to a third 10 minute rest break if you work over 10 hours. Rest breaks should be in the middle of these work periods. You may be required to stay on the work premises during your rest break, but you cannot be required to work during your rest break. You are free to skip your rest break, but your employer cannot force you to do so.
Do I have a right to breaks as a nursing mother?
California law, however, is far more strict than federal law. In California, all employers, regardless of size, must provide unpaid breaks and reasonable accommodations to nursing employees. While the nursing employee should try to use her existing breaks — such as meal and rest breaks — when she can, California employers are required to provide additional unpaid break time as needed. Unlike under federal law, there is no time limit after which nursing breaks are no longer required to be provided; so long as an employee is nursing, she is entitled to additional breaks and accommodations.
If the operations of a California employer would be “seriously disrupted” by providing these accommodations, that employer may be exempt from the law. However, this disruption must pose a significant and unavoidable burden to the employer. It cannot be any kind of minor inconvenience. Generally, as a Bay Area employee, you should be entitled to nursing accommodations under California law.
What can I do if my employer is violating my break time?
If your employer is not providing you with the break periods required by California law, or is pressuring you to give up your rest or meal periods, please contact one of our attorneys. Your employer is legally required to respect time and energy by providing you with these breaks; you should absolutely not be forced to work through them.
The Ottinger Firm has over fifteen years of experience representing clients in wage and hour disputes such as those relating to break violations.
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