Meal & Rest Break Q&A
Answers from Our Super Los Angeles Employment Law Attorney
Q. Am I protected under federal law and state law?Question
Yes. Thankfully, both federal and California state law provides protection in cases involving meal and rest break disputes. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) under federal law and the Labor Code of California, which is administered by the Industrial Welfare Commission, for state law. California’s state law offers more extensive protection, so it is best to bring a claim under the Labor Code.
Am I entitled to meal and rest breaks?
Yes! So long as you work more than 6 hours a day, you are entitled to meal and rest breaks. However, if you are an exempt employee, you will not be given the same entitlement.
What does it mean to be an exempt employee?
An exempt employee is someone whose job is not subject to one or more set of wage and hour laws. There are three simple requirements to determine whether a worker is an exempt employee under California law. The first is minimum salary, meaning the employee must be paid a salary that is at least twice the state minimum wage for full-time workers. The second is white collar duties, meaning the employee’s primary duties consists of administrative or executive tasks. The third is independent judgment, meaning the employee’s duties involve the use of discretion and independent judgment.
How do I know if I “manage people” or not?
Some jobs may have responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean you automatically manage people. If you are the employee hiring or firing new workers, as well as training and setting up schedules, you will likely be “managing” other employees. Just because your title has the word “manager” in it doesn’t mean you exercise independent business judgment or have the authority to hire or fire other employees.
I get a regular salary, not hourly pay for my job. Does that mean I will be exempt?
Not necessarily. Again, if you are not exercising independent business judgment in your job or strictly managing other employees, their schedules, and the hiring/firing of individuals, you may not be exempt.
When am I supposed to receive these breaks?
One 10 minutes break before 4 hours, one lunch break of 30 minutes before 5 hours, and a second 10-minute rest break within the next 4 hours.
Are there any penalties for failure to grant a rest break?
Yes. There is a penalty of 1 hour’s wages for not granting rest breaks regardless of whether you missed 1 or 2 breaks in a day.
My employer requires me to log out for lunch, but also requires me to be available to answer questions and phone calls. Is this considered as a proper meal break?
No. You need to be free of all employer’s control, and you will be entitled to 1 hour’s wages if you are not free.
My employer does not tell me that I cannot take a lunch break. However, my employer gives me so much work and knows that I cannot complete my job if I take a lunch break. Is it legal?
No. You are entitled to 1 hour’s wages for every break you missed.
I am not legally in this country. Does that make any differences?
Typically, undocumented workers are entitled to the same state and federal employment rights as documented workers. However, it is essential to know that an employer is prohibited by law to hire or continue to employ illegal immigrants. Thus, if an employer becomes aware of your status, they are required to refuse to hire or end your employment.
Can my employer face other penalties for failing to pay meal and rest breaks?
Yes. In addition to the 1 hour of wages per missed break, they may also have to pay a $50 penalty for the first pay period, as well as an additional $100 fee for each consecutive pay period. The limit on this penalty amount is $4,000.
Is there a time limit for making a missed meal/rest break claim?
Yes. You must make your claim within three years of the incident. You may be granted an additional year in some cases.
I don't work for that employer any longer. Do I still have the right to make a claim?
Yes! Also, there is another penalty for one day's wages for up to 30 days.
What if my employer tries to fire me for asking for meal and rest breaks?
Legally, your employer cannot fire you for asking for these breaks. If they do, they may be guilty of retaliation, which can add significant penalties for them, including the cost of your lost and future wages, punitive damages, and even emotional suffering.
What does it take to win a meal and rest break case?
While every case is unique, most will require certain key pieces of evidence. When you call on our firm, Attorney Newman sits down with you to discuss your specific situation. From there, he can determine what facts we need to uncover, how strong your potential claim may be, and the money amount you can realistically expect to recover for your damages.
If you have additional questions, contact our Harvard graduate Alan Burton Newman today for a free case review at (310) 986-2792. He has recovered millions of dollars on our clients’ behalf, and he can help you obtain monetary compensation you deserve!