Are 10 Minute Breaks Mandatory in California?

Employers in California are required by law to give non-exempt employees one 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked. A non-exempt employee is generally a worker who is paid by the hour and not by salary.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

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How many 10-minute breaks in an 8-hour shift California?

According to California’s employment laws in 10 minute rest break, employers are required to grant non-exempt workers, otherwise referred to as hourly employees, one break of ten minutes duration for every four hours of work. These 10-minute breaks are mandatory. An employee’s break period must be paid an uninterrupted, which means the employer cannot make the employee work during their rest break. The break must also take place somewhere in the middle of the four-hour shift rather than at the very start or end. An employee can elect to not take their break, but a company cannot force an employee to cede their rest break. If an employer does so, then the worker is entitled to one hour of premium pay as a fine for this action.

In terms of how many rest breaks an employee is allotted, this depends on the duration of their shift. According to wage laws in California, there should be a 10-minute break for each four-hour period of work. This would mean that a second rest break is mandatory when an employee works greater than six hours.

Non-exempt, or hourly, employees who work fewer than three and a half hours per shift are not permitted a 10-minute rest break. Hourly employees who work between three and a half hours and six hours are allowed one uninterrupted rest break of 10-minutes duration. Hourly employees who work between six and ten hours are granted two uninterrupted 10-minute rest breaks. For hourly employees who work between ten and fourteen hours, there are three uninterrupted 10-minute rest breaks.

The reality, however, is that many employees across the state of California are rarely, if ever, given a break at work. An employee who feels they have been denied their rightful rest breaks should first review their industry’s relevant wage order prior to filing a claim for unpaid wages with the labor board. This is because there may be an exception in the particular industry’s wage order that permits not giving breaks. If, however, an employer forces an employee to skip their rightful break, the employee deserves an hour of pay as penalty. This premium pay can build up to a large amount of money over time. By contacting an employment lawyer experienced in rest break violations, an employee can learn precisely the amount they are owed.

Can I sue for not getting breaks in California?

An employee may be able to file a lawsuit against their employer for not getting breaks in California. A worker can hire an employment attorney in California to help them file a lawsuit against the employer for violating the 10-minute rest break law.

The penalty applies per day, so if an employee adds up all the days that they were denied rest breaks, they could be owed a lot of money. If an employee has not been given two breaks per day for the past three years, they may be owed almost fifty thousand dollars. If the employer is also guilty of unpaid overtime, meal break violations, or record keeping violations, then the penalty number could easily go beyond one hundred thousand dollars.

However, if an employee figures they are owed only a small amount of money, it may be hard to find an employment attorney willing to take on the case. This is because contingency lawyers only receive a percentage of an award. If a case is too minor, then it may not be worthwhile for the lawyer to devote time and resources. If an employee finds themselves in this situation, they should file a claim with the labor board to receive the small amount they are owed without having to compensate an attorney.

That said, if an employee is owed a significant amount of unpaid wages, an employment lawyer is much more likely to maximize the amount awarded.

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