10-Minute Rest Breaks in California

California employment law requires employers to give non-exempt employees (which means “hourly” employees) one 10-minute rest break for every four hours of work. This break is paid and must be “uninterrupted” – meaning the boss can’t ask the employee to do any work during the break. The break should fall close to the middle of the four hour shift, not at the very beginning or end. Employee’s may voluntarily elect to skip their break, but if the company forces the worker to skip the break, that employee is owed one additional hour of premium pay as a penalty.

Branigan made the below whiteboard video to explain CA’s rest break law to non-lawyers. After you watch it, make sure that you read the rest of this page to get a complete picture of how rest break law plays out in the real world.

How Many Rest Breaks do CA Employees Get?

It depends on the length of their shift. Most of California’s wage orders provide for 10 minutes of rest for each four-hour work period (or major fraction thereof). This means that a second rest break must be provided if the employee worked over six hours, and so on.

  • Hourly employees who work less than 3.5 hours in a shift don’t get a 10-minute rest period.
  • Hourly employees who work between 3.5 and 6 hours get one uninterrupted 10-minute break period.
  • Hourly employees who work between 6 and 10 hours get two uninterrupted 10-minute rest periods.
  • Hourly employees who work between 10 and 14 hours get three uninterrupted 10-minute break periods.

Unfortunately, many employees across California are rarely granted a break, if at all. But make sure you check the applicable wage order for your industry before you run off to the labor board to file a claim for unpaid wages. There may be exceptions in the applicable wage order for your industry. If your employer forces you to skip the break, you are owed a hour of pay. Over time, the premium pay can add up to a substantial amount. A experienced rest break lawyer will be able to calculate this amount.

Rest Break Lawyer for CA Employees | Branigan Robertson

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Do I need a lawyer for rest break violations?

The best way to illustrate is by example:

If you make $30/hr and your boss doesn’t let you take a 10-minute break within a 3.5 – 4hr period, your boss is supposed to compensate your with one hour of premium pay ($30) on top of the hours you worked that day. Upon learning about this, most rational people say, “I’m not going to sue my boss for $30 bucks.” Very true. However, you might want to file a claim against your boss if you add up all those penalties.

That $30 penalty applies per day. And if you add them all up, that could be a lot of money. Let say you’ve been denied two rest breaks every day for the past three years (not uncommon).  You could be owed $48,600. If you add that to a few other wage and hour violations, such as meal break violations, unpaid overtime, or record keeping violations, that number could hit $100,000 with ease. That might motivate you to contact an employment lawyer.

If the amount that you are owed is small, you may find it difficult to find a lawyer like Mr. Robertson to take your case. After all, contingency lawyers only get paid a percentage. If the case is too small the lawyer won’t get paid much of anything for the amount of work that is required to pursue these cases. Therefore, if you can’t find a lawyer, we highly encourage people to file their claim with the labor board. This is a great way for small amounts to be collected without having to pay a substantial percentage to a lawyer. Do note, however, that if you are owed a large amount of unpaid wages a private lawyer is far more effective at maximizing your recovery.

California Rest Break Lawyer

Here are a few more details on rest breaks: The break must be a paid break. Your boss can’t deduct 10 minutes from your hours worked every time you go for a stretch, smoke, or stroll.  Also, to the extent possible, you have to take the break near the middle of each work period. This is flexible, though. Lastly, you don’t have to take the break if you don’t want (provided your boss isn’t ‘encouraging’ or forcing you not too).

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50 Responses to 10-Minute Rest Breaks in California

  1. meaghen phillips

    I’ve been working at a new job for 2 months now, I’ve never been given a 10 minute break and when I ask I get denied. I get paid 11$ an hr in California would this mean the days I worked for the past 2 months I should be getting paid 22$ extra for each day I work?

  2. cam

    Hi,
    How many minutes of paid rest breaks do I get for working exactlys 6 hours? The 6 hr mark is right on the cut off. My manager is trying to convict me of time fraud

  3. Adrianna

    Hi , I been working for the past 4 months.I go in by 6:45a.m if by 7:40 or 8 they don’t have production running they send us to breakfor 10 minutes after going back if by 10: 00 something goes wrong they send us to lunch for 30 minutes after there’s no breaks .till the end off the shift They let us go by 3:05 and take our 10 minutes break before going home. I would like to know if that’s a fraud?

  4. Terrigene Allen

    If I’m on a 210min break can I leave work/Company grounds?

  5. Terrigene Allen

    If I am on a 10min break can I leave company grounds?

  6. Wale

    I have to clock out for my ten min break. If I’m late one min. I wouldn’t get my ten min payed. It’s a family owned business. Is this against the law?

  7. Noemi

    I have to take a 10 minute rest break daily, but when I add up the 10 minutes and then accumulate to one hour over my pay period, that hour is paid at $2/hr. Minimum wage is $12/hr. Is it right of them to pay me $2/hr for my rest breaks?

  8. Cristian Davila

    Good morning, I have work for the same company since January 27, 2012 I’m still employee with them, but just last year on October 2016 we were required to write down our 10 min break time on the time sheets, prior to that I wasn’t given a break or I wasn’t aware about the 10 min break law believe it or not, I’m currently getting lay 12.50 per hour, my question is, is there anything that I can do about it?

  9. Martha Bernard

    I am on a 10-99 contract but I work with a company. Should my 10 minute break be paid since I only work four hours a day? And if it’s not paid, do I even have to take a 10 minute break at all?

  10. Ana

    What if an employee doesn’t take their break during the allotted time? Is there a cutoff as to when an employee can take their break before it’s considered that they opt to not take their break? I have an employee that tries to take their break just before their lunch to essentially get an extended lunch.

  11. Tina Biondo

    Hi,
    I am an SLPA, and have been working for 5 hours a day for five months. I have not gotten one break, but Now my boss has asked me to clock out for 10 minuets or say that I have taken a break. Does this mean I am owed past breaks.

  12. Stacie L. Walker

    An an employee ban smoking during 10 minute rest breaks in California.

  13. BraniganRobertson

    10-99 employees (so long as they are not misclassified) are not entitled to 10 minute breaks per CA labor code.

  14. BraniganRobertson

    Yes, you should call a lawyer.

  15. BraniganRobertson

    You should not be clocking out for your 10min rest break. You are supposed to be on the clock.

  16. BraniganRobertson

    Yes. But since its only 10 min, it is not unreasonable for an employer to request that you stay nearby. They just can’t ask you to do any work. Your break must be uninterrupted.

  17. patrick medawar

    if i work 5 hours shift , and i do n0t want to take my 10 minutes breaks even the manager ask me to take one.
    do i have to sign some kind of papers or i will be ok

  18. Nicole

    I work from 3:00pm to 9:30pm am I suppose to take two 10 min break or just if I’m working a 8 hr shift

  19. Natali

    I been working for this company for four months and never had a break. When I asked my supervisor about our breaks he said he’s never taken a break himself and he’s been working for this company for the last 3 years. I want to know if we can do something about this?

  20. Tony

    I work for the 99 Cents Only Store in Vacaville California and they make us clock out for every ten minute break. This company has approx. 17000 employees, not sure how many of those are hourly but, by my calculations they take about $700-$900 from each employee yearly. I don’t know what to do- find a lawyer or fi I’ll a complaint with the Labor Board. Also, is there any way that company would be exempt from that law?

  21. Patti

    My employer is forcing us to write down our breaks and sometimes I don’t have time to take one but I’ve been told I have to “lie” and write one down on the time sheet anyhow. I just read that an employee can choose to skip their break. If I do that, does that mean I can leave 10 minutes earlier? Also, can they control when I take the 10 minute break? They just sent out a company wide email stating it must be taken by 11:00 but I don’t start until 9:00 (others start earlier) and I prefer a later break

  22. BraniganRobertson

    I would call a lawyer as soon as possible. If the 99 Cents store has a company policy of doing what you describe, there might be a class action that is worth pursuing. I would first try to find a lawyer, and then if no lawyer is interested, then contact the labor board. You can call us as we handle cases like this.

  23. BraniganRobertson

    You should call a lawyer to determine whether or not you are entitled to a break. If you are, it may not be worth pursuing by itself unless you are willing to risk losing your job (unfortunately when employees complain about something like this they are quickly fired).

  24. Janid

    Our employer just implemented a rule that all non exempt employers take their break at a specific time of the day. Is it legal for us to be forced to take our break every day at the same time. What if we come in an hour before the first mandated break.

  25. David

    We just found out that our employer wasn’t aware they were supposed to give the part time workers another break after working 6 hours for the past two years. They would give it to us after our 7 hours. How would we go about that.

  26. Debbie Ahumada

    I live in Torrance, CA. Can you send me some information regarding lawyers i can call. I have not been given a single 10 minute break in almost 3 years. Also,
    i have been forced to take a 60 minute lunch when i want to take only 30 min lunch

  27. CIkan

    I was working as an industrial seamstress 7.5 hours a day, M-F. We were given two 15 minute breaks (paid) and one thirty minute lunch, unpaid. I didn’t want to take the breaks and continued to work through them. The day before my last day, the owner came up to me during the last breaka nd told it was break time and I needed to stop working. I explained to her that per CA Labor code, yes, she HAD to give me a break, but I had the right to decline to take it, though she did not have the right to decline me the break. SHe said okay, she understood now and walked away and then came back a minute later and said there was no sewing machines to be running during break time. I said okay and turned my machine off. The next day (turned out to be my last day) during “break time” I folded the pockets for the pices I was sewing since I hate just sitting idling by and doing nothing. When I got home I got a call from teh temp agency saying my assignment had ended and I was not to return. ALso, all the workers there on visa (every employee but me and two other white women) all passed around and signed a petition for me to be fired or they would all go on strike (they hate working with white women I was told by another worker) so I as let go because of thier racial discrimination and because I “worked” on my breaks. It is my break time, I should be entitled to do what I want with it, it seems to me and they should not have been able to fire me for me not taking breaks and because the mexican workers didnt want me there.

  28. Tori

    How does this work for a place like fantastic sams? We are client based an we get very busy!!! We are told that when it quiet that is considered out 10 min break!! it can and is always interrupted! Also we get schedual for instance a 4-9 shift which is 5 hours but we clock in 16 mins before our shift and don’t leave until about 930 and we have to close and clean the shop which means we have been actually working 5 hours and 45 mins with no lunch or 10 min break! Any advice?????

  29. Miriam

    Hi, I’m a part time employee at a fast food restaurant. Today (4/21/18) i did not receive a 10 minute break. I don’t know if my manager forgot or if it was too busy for one. I didn’t ask to have a break either. I usually get a break. What should I do?

  30. Santos E.

    If employers or fellow department heads are watching or stalking you during rest and meal break, do they have a case against them?

  31. jose garcia

    I worked for 18 years with out breaks and lunch

  32. olga gonzalez

    Do Employees have to notify the supervisor about 10 minute breaks.

  33. Sandra

    I work in a clothing store in fullerton. I was scheduled for 5 hours of work one day. I had taken my 10 min break. Then my boss got upset and told me im not allowed to take a 10 min break when working only 5 hours. This is true? Also another employee had told me, she was yelled at by the manager for going into the break room to drink water quickly without asking. Also customers complain about the managers attitude, and about her horrible customer service, and that they find her very disrespectful. What can i do?

  34. Ray

    Hello I been working at my job for over a year now. I work a 8am – 5pm Monday – Friday work schedule. Since I started I never received a single 10 minute break. I do however after working 5hrs straight in a day I receive a 1 hour lunch at 1pm (non paid). My question is by receiving a 1hr lunch instead of the a 30 minute lunch would that be the reason why I don’t receive any breaks ?

  35. BraniganRobertson

    Call a lawyer.

  36. Mike

    Son works a pizza place and they mandate 3 unpaid 1/2 hour breaks instead of 10 minute paid break. He is there 9 hours for a 7 1/2 hour shift. Is this practice legal in CA.?

  37. Nikki Lukesh

    Hello I was working 8 hour shifts 40 hours a week for almost 6 months at a pay of $17.51hr. We were “encouraged” to take our breaks,( 2 fifteens and a 30 min lunch), but I was given assignments to complete during these so called “breaks”. Also, there is proof I was working during most of those breaks due to the emails that had to be sent to all the managers. What is my next step with moving forward. Do I have a case?

  38. Ismael

    I’ve been working for a construction company for about 3 months I got fired for no reason,and also they were only giving us a 20 or 25 minute break per pay without clocking in or out is there anything I can do about this.

  39. I recently quit my fulltime job (one week ago) of 1 1/2 years.
    In that time I almost never got a 10 minute brake and some times would work a 8 hour shift without a 30 minute lunch brake.
    Is there something I can do about this?

  40. I recently started a new job that makes me clock out for my 10-minute breaks and makes me take 30 minute breaks if I am on the schedule for 5 hours. Is this legal

  41. Mike

    I work for a small manufacturing company in CA. Once each quarter, we have a mandatory safety meeting held during the morning 10 minute rest break. The meeting is in the conference room, so the workers are away from their work station. The employees are on the clock and are allowed to eat if they want. They just need to sign in to show that they were there. Otherwise, they just listen to the presentation and may ask questions at the close of the meeting. The meeting length ranges from 10-20 minutes. An employee asked if this was OK under CA law because it is a mandatory meeting. What say you?

  42. I know if I work 7 hours I get 10min break and 30 minute lunch but do I get a 2nd 10 minute break?

  43. Sarah

    Hello. I was never given a break and i worked at Rocking Jump on Adrnold road in pleasanton ca. Please help me. I want this buisness shut down or to pay their dues to me and everyone else who neber got a break

  44. Royce weller

    I have been working for the same company for over 4 years and I’ve never been told we get 10 minute breaks, we do get our lunch breaks but never was informed of 10s. We work 8 hour or more a day and just recently I heard they are suppose to compensate for missing 10 minute breaks, how would I go about the last 4 years of no 10 minute breaks

  45. BraniganRobertson

    It is not legal to force employees to clock out for their 10min breaks. Those are supposed to be paid in CA.

  46. BraniganRobertson

    Yes, probably. Call my office or a lawyer like me.

  47. Timothy McBride

    I am working at a swimming pool maintenance company and we record out hours on our phones (on the t sheets ap) I was not aware of the 10 min break law and did not clock in for my 10 min break for 7 months.my boss just told me that I have to by law.can I get paid for all of those 10 min breaks for the last 7 months even though I didn’t sign in for them?

  48. Kenny

    My manager forces us to sty inside the store for our rest break at midnight, in the name of safety. Im a smoker i like to smoke for my breaks. This has been this way for 4 years. Ive been dinciplined and suspended for this rule.

  49. Alexis C Garcia

    I work for a Sheriff’s Office as support staff. My boss has made multiple comments about me taking more than my allotted breaks which is not true. The only reason he says this is because most people don’t take their breaks and he is always gone for extended amounts of time and late on a regular basis. I was given a blue slip for being 5 minutes late on the same day he arrived at the same time as me. I work 7:30 to 5 and get two 15 minute breaks and 1 30 min break which is what our policy allows us. How do I handle this when I always remind him that I am not over taking breaks.

  50. BraniganRobertson

    Yes, you are entitled to get paid for the time you were clocked out during your 10-min breaks. However, just because you are legally entitled to something doesn’t always mean its a good idea – especially if you want to maintain a good relationship with your employer. But if you really want to pursue your case, you can.

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