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.
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
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.