Omid Nosrati

A closer look at your rights regarding meal breaks

Whether they realize it or not, most people have workday practices that are more like rituals in that the day somehow feels empty without them. For some, this might be getting a cup of coffee first thing in the morning, while for others it might be meeting with co-workers for a midday walk. For still others, it might be lunchtime, which provides a welcome opportunity to contemplate matters outside of their job-related duties.

Regarding lunchtime, it's important for most workers here in California to understand that this 30 minutes is more than just an opportunity, it's their right under state law.  

Meal periods: The basics

The California Labor Code dictates that employees who work more than five hours per day must be given a single 30-minute lunch break or "meal period." Furthermore, employees who work more than 10 hours per day must be provided with a second 30-minute meal period.

There are two circumstances, however, in which the right to these meal periods can be waived:

  • First meal period: If the employee does not work more than six hours in a given workday, the initial 30-minute meal period can be waived by the mutual consent of the employer and employee. In other words, if an employee does not waive this meal period, the meal period stays.
  • Second meal period: If the employee does not work more than 12 hours in a given workday, the second 30-minute meal period can be waived by the mutual consent of the employer and employee. However, this can only occur if the right to the initial meal period was not waived.

We'll continue examining this issue in future posts, including examining the concept of an "on duty" meal period.

In the meantime, if you have questions about meal breaks, or other important wage and hour issues, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options. 

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Omid Nosrati
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