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


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).



25 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

    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

    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.

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