Vincent W Davis

California Meal Breaks Law

California Meal Breaks are clearly defined by law

California Meal Breaks are clearly defined by lawCalifornia employment law is very clear about meal breaks. Employees are entitled to meal breaks and periodic rest breaks during their workday. This employment law is regularly violated by numerous employers who openly or subtly compel employees to work through lunch, or who dock employee’s paychecks or demand that employees clock out for legally required rest breaks.

Missed Meal Breaks in Southern California

Meal breaks violations are one of the most common employment abuses faced by many of the clients we defend in Los Angeles, Orange County, & the Inland Empire. While some employers do not fully comprehend the employment laws, others blatantly and openly disregard the meal breaks law. No matter the reason, you as an employee, have clearly defined legal rights under California’s wage and hour laws, including the right to compensation for each documented violation.

We can pursue collecting your back pay for up to 3-years —somtimes 4-years

If you feel that your employer has incorrectly deprived you of rest breaks, meal breaks, or earned wages and is willfully violating your rights, the law firm of Vincent W. Davis & Associates can pursue your employer to recover back pay for meal breaks, rest breaks and resulting wage shortage violations. Missed Meal Breaks and Rest Periods are considered a wage collection and not a “penalty.” This was clarified in Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. where the courts decided that missed meal breaks are considered a missed wage and not a penalty. California labor law allows employees to remedy meal breaks violations and the resulting wages owed for 3-years (sometimes 4-years under the California unfair competition statute).

Meal Breaks – if you work 6-hours or more

If you work at least 6-hours in a given shift, your employer must provide you a 30-minute meal break “no later than five hours into an employee’s shift” according to a new California Supreme Court ruling of April 12, 2013. If you work 10-hours in a given shift, you are entitled to a second 30-minute meal break. Meal breaks can be an unpaid break if you are permitted an uninterrupted 30-minute duty-free period during which you are at liberty to come and go as you please and have no employee duties.

Your employer may be obligated to pay you for your meal breaks if:

  • If you are required to work through your meal breaks
  • If you are on duty, on standby or “on call” for any part of your meal breaks
  • If you are required to remain on the employer’s premises during your meal breaks

NOTE: If your meal breaks meet the above criteria and qualify as paid time, that time also counts toward hours worked and overtime calculations.

Consequences for Failing to Provide Meal and Rest Breaks

Missed Meal Breaks

For each workday that your employer fails to provide you a meal break you are then owed one additional hour of pay at the your regular hourly rate. So for a missed 30-minute meal break, you are credited a full hour of pay.

Let’s do some what-if math – Say that for the past 5-years at your job you have had to work through your meal breaks by being “on-call” to answer phones or at a computer monitor to be on “stand-by” to provide customer service and therefore had to eat at your desk, but were made to “clock out” and you were not paid for that 30-minutes. Say you worked 5-days a week, 50-weeks a year and the law allows you to claim unpaid wages due you for 3-years. Though you worked at your desk for 5-years, you are only entitled to claim 3-years (possibly 4). Doing the math… Working 250 days per year, if we make and prevail on a successful claim for 3-years, where your average hourly pay was $22.75 per hour, you are owed 750-hours of back pay which equates to $17,062.50 — money that is rightfully owed you.

Missed Rest Breaks

Rest breaks — You are entitled to a 10-minute rest break for each 4-hours worked. Most employees who work the typical 8-hour shift are entitled to two 10-minute daily rest breaks and one 30-minute meal break. A “rest break” must be 10-minutes of off-duty time. Your employer cannot make you clock out or dock your pay for using the legally mandated rest time.

Calculating Compensation for Lunch Break / Rest Break Violations

If you are forced by your employer to sacrifice either 10-minute rest break, legally, your employer owes you one full hour of regular pay which is supposed to be included in your next paycheck.

Missed Meal Breaks —AND— Missed Rest Breaks

So how does the math work if you were made to surrender both your meal breaks and rest breaks? – Over the years, there has been a great deal courtroom litigation about the number of “premium” hours that an employee is entitled to if they are forced, coerced, or for whatever reason missed out on BOTH a meal break and a rest break in one day. Is the employee owed one or two hours of “premium” pay? In United Parcel Service v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, a California Court of Appeal ruled that there were two separate remedies because the premium wage requirement is contained in two separate sections of the Wage Orders.

So what remedies does an employee have?

Your current or past employer is accountable for one hour of ‘premium’ pay for each day that your meal break and/or rest break rights were violated, plus any overtime pay that might also accrue. If you as an individual employee, or as a group of employees, believe that you have been treated unfairly as to meal and rest breaks, the law firm of Vincent W. Davis & Associates can attempt to recover any back compensation owed to you through individual or class action claims. In those cases where there are multiple employees bringing a “group” claim against the same organization, your net compensation, if the claim is successful, will likely be greater per individual as the cost of the court proceedings would be diluted over more individuals. Even if you are not part of a group, most employment claims result in the employer being liable to pay the employee’s attorney costs.

Contact a California Labor Law Attorney

If you find yourself with a Meal Breaks issue or Rest Break violation, contact an employment attorney at Vincent W. Davis & Associates to set up a no-cost, no-obligation consultation for a thorough assessment of your unique situation. Most employment issues can be preliminarily discussed by phone, and then if it is necessary to visit us in person, we have several conveniently-located offices in and around the Southern California counties and cities including, but not limited to:

  • Los Angeles
  • Los Angeles County
  • Orange County
  • Riverside County
  • San Bernardino County
  • Santa Ana</li
  • Beverly Hills
  • Anaheim
  • Irvine
  • Long Beach
  • Pasadena
  • And more…

Arcadia Office
150 N. Santa Anita Ave,
Suite 200
Arcadia, CA 91006
Phone: (626) 446-6442
Fax: (626)-446-6454


Beverly Hills Office
9465 Wilshire Blvd.
Suite 300
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Phone: (310)-880-5733


La Mirada Office
Cerritos Towne Center
17777 Center Court Drive ,
Suite 600
Cerritos, California, 90703
Phone: 888-888-6542


Los Angeles Office
Gas Company Tower
555 West Fifth Street,
31st Floor
Los Angeles, California, 90013
Phone: (213)-400-4132


Long Beach Office
Landmark Square
111 West Ocean Blvd.,
Suite 400
Long beach, California, 90802


Irvine Office
Oracle Tower
17901 Von Karman Avenue,
Suite 600
Irvine, California, 92614
Phone: (949)-203-3971
Fax: (949)-203-3972


Ontario Office
Lakeshore Center
3281 E. Guasti Road,
7th Floor
City of Ontario, California, 91761
Phone:(909)-996-5644


Riverside Office
Turner Riverwalk
11801 Pierce Street,
Suite 200
Riverside, California, 92505
Phone: (909)-996-5644


San Diego
Emerald Plaza
402 West Broadway,
Suite #400
San Diego, California, 92101
Phone: (619)-885-2070


Aliso Viejo
Ladera Corporate Terrace
999 Corporate Drive,
Suite 100
Ladera Ranch, California, 92694
Phone: (714) 721-3822