Meal Periods in California

Do you work long hours for your employer, only to be given a hard time about taking a much-needed meal period? Perhaps during an 8, 10, or 12-hour shift, your blood sugar plummets and you begin to feel dizzy. What you need is to eat a decent meal, but that’s not as easy as it sounds when you’re working for your employer.

Your spouse gets to take a normal lunch during the workday, but you don’t get to. You’re under pressure to produce and if you take a break, your boss disapproves and now you’re afraid of losing your job if you take a break for a meal.

What’s wrong with this picture? Everything.

Under California law, employers are not allowed to have employees work for over five hours a day without providing a meal period of at least 30 minutes. The only exception is when the employee is working for six hours or less.

If the employee works more than 10 hours in a day, their employer is required to give them a second meal period. However, the second meal period can be waived if the employer and employee agree to it, and only if the employee took their first meal period that day.

If you work in the motion picture industry or in Hollywood, an exception applies to you. If you work in the film industry, you cannot work longer than six hours without a meal period of at least 30 minutes, but not more than one hour.

When you work in film, you must get a second meal period within six hours of when the preceding meal period ended.

Do I get paid for my meal period?

This depends on a few factors, such as whether you took a real break or not while you were eating. Unless you were fully relieved of all of your duties during your meal period, it would be considered an “on duty” meal period. Meaning, it counts as hours worked, which must be compensated at your regular pay rate.

For example, if you’re a receptionist and you had to answer phones while you ate at your desk, you would have to be compensated for that meal period. Same if you work at a guard tower and you have to check people’s vehicles and IDs as you try to eat your meal.

Additionally, if an employer requires their employee to stay on-site during their meal period (even if they are relieved of their duties), the meal period must be paid.

Are you not being allowed to take your meal periods? Or, are you working during these periods but not being compensated for them?

We are only scratching the surface about these types of wage claims; to learn more, contact our Las Angeles employment law attorney to learn your rights for free.

Get a Harvard lawyer on your side. Call Alan Burton Newman, PLC today!