Failure to Provide Breaks in Northern California
The Law Entitles You to Breaks During Your Workday
Everyone in California remembers a time where he or she was so busy with
work that they worked an eight-hour day (or perhaps longer) without ever
taking a break. Some may find this exhilarating and productive, while
others may find it exhausting and depleting. Regardless, no employer in
California can force an employee to work a workday without allowing the
worker time to rest throughout the day. An employer who does so may be
guilty of failing to provide his or her workers with legally mandated
breaks and may be required to pay damages or fines.
Why Would an Employer Not Give Employees a Break?
It may seem confusing why some employers would not allow employees to take
a break at some point during the day. After all, keeping employees refreshed,
well-fed, and hydrated increases the productivity and morale of the team,
thus (in theory, at least) increasing profits.
Reasons for not providing breaks may include:
- An employer may become stressed as deadlines loom;
- The thought of allowing workers to rest and eat may cause the employer
to panic and fear that the project will fall even further behind schedule;
- Moral or personal objection to paying “good money” to employees
just for them to “sit around and do nothing.”
What Rest Periods Am I Entitled to in California?
The law requires that you be given a ten-minute rest period for every four
hours worked (or major portion thereof). The ten-minute rest period does
not include the time it takes for you to walk to the rest area; instead,
it begins the moment you have arrived at the rest area. At the rest area,
your employer cannot require you to work. The ten minutes required by
law must also be consecutive: in other words, your employer cannot allow
you to sit and relax for five minutes, order you to perform additional
work, and then allow you to rest for another five minutes. Your rest period
is paid by your employer.
What Meal Periods Am I Entitled To?
If you work six or more hours on a given day, you must be given a 30-minute
meal period that begins no later than the end of the fifth hour of work.
During your meal period you must be completely free of any work obligations;
the law does not permit your employer to make you take a “working
lunch.” If you work more than ten hours per day, you must be given
a second 30-minute meal period. Any meal periods that you take are unpaid.
Your employer may not require you to be on-duty – that is, your
employer may not impose significant restrictions on where and how you
spend your meal time without your written consent.
Remedies Available in California
If an employer fails to provide rest or meal periods in accordance with
the law, he or she may be fined for each meal or rest period that was
not provided. If your employer did not pay you for a meal period but you
were required to be on-duty, you may be able to recover the wages you are owed.
If an investigation conducted by our office reveals that your claims are
supported by testimony and/or evidence, I will aggressively pursue the
compensation and damages to which you may be entitled.
Contact me to learn more by calling (916) 443-3553.