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What to do if an employee is denied breaks in California

An often confusing aspect of California law for employees is when they are allowed to have a break and whether it must be paid. The way this is determined is based on the amount of time the employee is working during the day and, in some cases, what the job is. Employers are expected to know and adhere to the law when it comes to allowing their employees breaks.

Workers who are on the job for more than five hours in a day must be given a meal break for a minimum of 30 minutes. An exception is if the workday for the employee consists of a maximum of six hours in which case the meal break can be waived if both sides agree to it. An employee who works more than 10 hours in a day will receive a second meal break unless the employee works a maximum of 12 hours. That too can be waived if both employer and employee agree to it and only if the first meal break was not waived.

Those who are working in the motion picture industry are not subjected to this law since they cannot work for more than six hours without receiving a meal break of at least 30 minutes and a maximum of one hour. There must be another meal period no more than six hours after the previous meal break concluded. The meal break will be viewed as one that is provided while the worker is on duty and is counted toward the amount of time worked at the regular pay. The exception is if the employee has been relieved of all duties during that break.

There can only be an on duty meal if the work is such that the employee cannot be relieved of all duties and the employer and employee have agreed to the paid meal while on the job. The employee must be allowed to revoke this agreement whenever the person chooses to do so. If an employee is required to stay on the job site during the meal, then it must be a paid meal time.

There are many different tenets to an employee’s break time and numerous circumstances in which the law can be violated. Those who have been subjected to wage and hour law violations due to denied breaks need to have an idea of how to move forward with a lawsuit with help from a qualified employment attorney.

Source: dir.ca.gov, “Meal periods,” accessed on March 22, 2016


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