What to Know

Rest Breaks at Work - California Laws

Rest Breaks Violations. We represent employees in Los Angeles and everywhere else in California.

If you believe that your employer violated California rest break law, talk to our employment lawyer at The Sempers Law Firm to discuss your legal options. To get a free consultation with our attorney Zachary J. Sempers, call at 888-762-0297.

California rest break requirements

According to the California Labor Code and the IWC Wage Orders, employers must give most non-exempt employees an uninterrupted rest period of ten minutes for every four hours (or major fraction) worked. The main exception to the California rest break requirement is if the employee is exempt or works less than 3.5 hours in a workday.

A rest break is a 10-minute period of uninterrupted rest provided to an employee. During the rest break, an employee must be relieved of all their duties. According to the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), employers are also required to provide suitable resting facilities to all employees eligible for rest breaks.

Unlike meal periods, rest breaks are paid. In California, employees should take rest breaks in the middle of a four hour period unless doing so is unreasonable. An employer cannot require an employee to work, remain on-call, or stay on-site during the rest break.

Are 10-minute breaks mandatory in California?

While California employers are legally required to authorize and permit employees to take paid 10-minute rest breaks for every four hours worked, an employee can feel free to skip the break. An employer cannot encourage or force an employee to skip a rest break or perform any work during the rest period.

Rest Breaks: Exempt employees vs. Non-Exempt employees

The difference between exempt and non-exempt employees is that the former employees are not subject to some state and federal labor laws, including:

  • Rest breaks
  • Meal breaks
  • Overtime pay
  • Minimum wage

Under California Labor Code, non-exempt employees are eligible for rest and meal breaks and overtime pay and must receive minimum wage. While non-exempt employees are not entitled to the same benefits and protections, they must be paid at least twice the minimum wage based on a 40-hour workweek.

Exempt employees: Rest breaks in California

An employee is usually considered “exempt” when the following criteria are met:

  1. The employee is paid at least twice the minimum wage based on a 40-hour workweek.
  2. The employee regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment in their job.
  3. The employee performs executive, administrative, or professional work as part of their primary duties.

Rest break requirements do not apply to the vast majority of exempt employees in California.

Non-Exempt employees: Rest breaks in California

Under California law, employers must provide 10-minutes rest breaks to non-exempt employees for every four hours (or major fraction) worked. A non-exempt employee is not eligible for a paid 10-minute rest period if they work less than 3.5 hours in a shift.

Should rest breaks be paid?

Yes, California law requires rest breaks to be paid. Thus, employers must treat rest periods as hours worked and must compensate employees for the rest breaks at their regular rate of compensation.

If your employer deducts rest periods from your total hours worked, you are required to clock in and out for your rest period, you are required to stay at work during your break you may be able to sue your employer for a rest break violation. Consult with an attorney to discuss your legal options.

Should rest breaks be authorized?

California employers must authorize and permit uninterrupted, 10-minute rest breaks for employees who work at least 3.5 hours in a workday. Employers must authorize a 10-minute rest period for every four hours worked or a major fraction thereof.

Note: The term “major fraction” of a four-hour work period refers to anytime more than two hours.

Should rest breaks be recorded?

No, unlike meal breaks, rest breaks do not need to be recorded. Your employer does not need to record your paid rest periods on timekeeping documents. Keep in mind that California law requires 10-minute rest periods to be considered “time worked.” This means that if your employer requires you to record your rest periods and deducts that time from your wages, you may be entitled to take legal action against your employer.

California rest breaks laws for 10-hour shift

If you work more than 10 hours in a workday, you are entitled to a second 30-minute meal break that must start before the end of the 10th hour of your shift. However, you and your employer may mutually agree to waive the second meal break as long as your shift does not exceed 12 hours and you did not relinquish your right to have the first 30-minute lunch break.

If you work between 10-hours and 12-hours, you are entitled to three 10-minute rest periods (one rest break for every four hours worked or major fraction thereof).

California rest breaks laws for 12-hour shift

Since California law requires employers to provide employees 10-minute rest breaks for every four hours (or a major fraction) worked, you are entitled to three paid rest breaks during a 12-hour shift. However, if your workday exceeds 12 hours, you must have two meal breaks that cannot be waived.

Rest breaks for shift workers

If your shift is more than 3.5 hours, you are entitled to an uninterrupted rest break. If you work more than six hours, you are entitled to two paid rest periods, which is a total of 20 minutes of rest during your shift.

If your shift is at least five hours, you are also entitled to a 30-minute meal break. Unlike rest breaks, meal periods are not paid unless your employer’s rest and meal break policy says otherwise.

Rest breaks for night workers

If at least four hours of your shift fall between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., you work a night or graveyard shift. If you work a night shift, you are still entitled to a 10-minute rest break for every four hours (or a major fraction) thereof.

Can an employee opt-out of rest breaks in California?

Yes, you can skip rest breaks, but your employer cannot encourage or force you to opt-out of your rest break. When it comes to providing rest breaks to an employee, an employer is required to authorize and permit an employee to take the rest break.

Employer penalties for denying rest breaks

If your employer unlawfully or willfully denied your rest or meal break, you are entitled to one additional hour of pay at your regular rate of compensation. You are entitled to the so-called premium pay for each workday the violation occurs. If your employer committed a rest break violation, you have three years from the date of the violation to bring a claim against your employer.

For more information

Contact a skilled rest break violation attorney at The Sempers Law Firm to help you file a claim against your employer.

We take all cases on contingency and advance all costs - which we only are reimbursed if we successfully recover on your behalf.

We represent clients in Los Angeles and other cities in California.

Last updated on September 21, 2021.

Additional Resources

• California Department of Industrial Relations - rest periods and rest breaks.