Meal and Rest Breaks

You must give nonexempt employees an opportunity to take a 10-minute paid rest break for every four hours worked, or major fraction thereof. You may not employ an employee for a work period of more than five hours per day without providing him/her with a 30-minute unpaid meal break.

If one or more rest breaks are not given, you owe the employee one hour of pay. You also owe the employee one hour of pay if the employee is unable to take a meal break. The additional pay for a missed meal or rest break must be included in the employee’s next paycheck.

In 2012, the California Supreme Court decided an important meal and rest break case, Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court. This chapter reflects guidance provided by this decision.1

Some less commonly used Wage Orders contain different timing requirements for meal and rest periods. For additional information on meal periods, review the Wage Order that covers your employees. For more information, see Exceptions for Specific Industries.

In addition, an employer with employees who work outside cannot require an employee to work during any “recovery period” taken to avoid heat-related illness. For more information, see Heat Illness.

Legislation was passed in 2014 to clarify that rest and recovery periods are paid breaks and count as hours worked. This reiterates existing law and was passed simply to clear up any confusion that employers may have had. ​​

  • Importance of Compliance

    Importance of ComplianceCalifornia employers face costly consequences for violating meal and rest break rules. Court decisions have increased the potential for large financial fines. ​​​​​​​  More »

  • Brinker Decision on Meal and Rest Breaks

    Brinker Decision on Meal and Rest BreaksThe California Supreme Court finally released its long-awaited decision in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court.  More »

  • Rest Breaks

    Rest BreaksEmployers must authorize and permit rest periods for all nonexempt employees whose total daily work time is at least 3.5 hours.   More »

    ​​Read about a new 2015 court case.
  • Meal Breaks

    Meal BreaksAn employer cannot employ someone for a work period of more than five hours without providing an unpaid, off-duty meal period of at least 30 minutes.  More »

    ​​Read about a new 2015 court case.
  • Premium Pay for Break Violations

    Premium Pay for Break ViolationsThere has been a great deal of discussion about the premium wage employers owe an employee who misses a meal break and a rest break in one day — is it one hour of pay?  More »

    Read about 2015 legislation.
  • Brinker Best Practices

    Brinker Best PracticesPost-Brinker, the employer’s responsibility to have specific meal and rest break policies and to document that the meal break was provided is even more important.  More »