Meal and Rest Breaks | Employment and Labor Law
Employment and Labor Law | Meal and rest breaks are one of those hazy areas of law that can land employers in trouble if they aren’t careful. Much of this confusion springs from the fact that federal law does not actually grant employees any right to time off for meals or breaks. However, if an employer chooses to offer short breaks to its employees, it must pay employees for this time. What is even further confusing is that many states have different laws on the matter, so it is difficult to find any uniformity.
In California, employees receive greater protection than they do under federal law. Employees are required to be offered both meal breaks as well as short rest breaks. Further, employees must be paid for short meal breaks. This is a departure from federal law that des not require any breaks.
With regard to meal breaks, California law dictates the employees are to be offered one paid 30-minute meal break per five hours worked. Meal breaks are unpaid. If an employee’s work shift is six hours or shorter, employees can waive their meal break. Further, if the nature of the job prevents an employee from taking time away for a meal, his or her employer must provide an on-duty meal period and pay for this time.
California employers are also required to provide ten-minute rest breaks to employees for every four hours worked, and this time must be paid. If practical, employers must offer these breaks in the middle of the shift.
While employees may choose not to take their breaks, employers are deemed to have met their requirements a long as they have relieved employees of all duties during break time and allowed them to leave the worksite. They are not required to enforce these breaks or police employees to be sure no one is working.
If you have any questions about this or any other area of employment law, contact the employment law attorneys at The Law Offices of Young Wooldridge, LLP, in Bakersfield.
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