Can I Work During My Lunch Hour in California?

Image is of a woman eating and working on laptop, concept of working through lunch laws in California

Sometimes, you just want to get finished with your work. It is not uncommon to feel that working during a lunch break is the best way to achieve this. It is legal in some cases to work through your lunch hour in California and waive your lunch break. It is not legal in all cases, however.

It can be difficult to understand California lunch period laws, especially as they change each year. Both the employer and the employee can be confused by them.

The employment law attorneys at Fraigun Law are available to assist you if you have lunch-break questions. We value client communication and are happy to answer any California rest and meal questions. Call us at 818-981-1800 today!

Table of Contents

California Meal Break Requirements

California law mandates that all employees, exempt or not, receive a certain amount of meal breaks and rest periods during their workday.

Employees can take a 30-minute unpaid meal break. Employees can concentrate on their business, whatever it is, and not be paid for it. Employees are not required by law to eat during these 30 minutes.

It’s useful to have a basic understanding of how break and lunch periods work, as well as the laws governing meal periods.

California’s lunch break law stipulates:

  • Your employer must provide a 30-minute uninterrupted meal break if you work for more than five hours consecutively;
  • Your employer must provide two 30-minute meals breaks if you work for more than ten hours consecutively;
  • Your employer must provide three 30-minute meals breaks if you work more than fifteen hours consecutively;
  • You get four 30-minute meals breaks if you work more than twenty hours;
  • Employers must allow employees to eat for 30 minutes uninterruptedly during meal breaks;
  • Employers are only responsible for providing their employees with break opportunities–taking the break is the employee’s responsibility;
  • Employers must release employees from all duties during meal breaks;
  • During this time, employees can do whatever they like; and
  • All 30-minute meal breaks will not be paid.

Exempt or salaried employees working in certain occupations must receive meal breaks.

However, certain occupations like truck driving, construction and motion pictures are exempted from labor laws. It is best to consult a skilled employment lawyer because meal laws can vary from one city to the next in California.

An employment lawyer will review your job situation to determine if you are eligible for any breaks.

California Rules for Skipping Meal Breaks

The laws in California permits you to skip meal times without any legal consequences for your employer, if you have volunteered to do this. You can skip any meal break if you work less than six hours.

If you work for more than six hours, your employer may waive your meal break. However, you must first agree with your employer in writing.

These paid “on-duty” periods are often when your job does not allow you to leave your office.

If you are a cashier at a convenience store, and you can’t leave your position, you may be eligible for an “on duty” meal break. You can skip the second meal break if you work longer than 10 hours and less than 12 hours, but you must still take your first meal break.

What if My Employer in California Doesn’t Allow Me to Take My Lunch Break?

Your employer could interfere with your meal break in a number of ways. Your employer might make it a condition of your employment that you work through your meal break, or force you to cut your break short.

Your employer may make it difficult for you to even take a break at all. You could be eligible for an extra hour of pay if any of these things happen.

Your employer will pay this hour at your regular rate every day that you did not receive a proper meal break .

You may be entitled to damages if your employer fails to give you a break from work for at least 22 days or a monthly period. This means that if you earn $15/hour, your employer may have to pay $330 more wages.

Your employer is not responsible, however, if you decide to work through your work lunch hour.  Employers only have the responsibility of providing you with breaks and other opportunities. It is up to you to decide whether or not you choose to eat or work through these opportunities.

Let Us Help You Solve Your Meal Break Dispute

At Fraigun Law, our trusted and experienced employment law attorneys can help you understand your meal break rights. We have been helping employees in difficult workplace situations for years.

Our skilled wage and hour lawyers can help you resolve your problem. Our focus is solely on helping employees solve complex employment issues. Call Fraigun Law today at 818-981-1800 or by filling out a form on the Contact page.



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