California Wage and Hour Laws – Lunch Break Violations

rest-breakCalifornia law is very protective of the employees working in this state, especially when it comes to their wages earned and hours worked. The source of this law is the California Labor Code and the regulations created by the Industrial Welfare Commission.

Who Do I Contact if My Employer Does Not Allow Me to Take a Lunch Break?

Want to File a Civil Lawsuit?

If you are interested in filing a civil lawsuit, you very likely will need legal representation. Strauss Law Group usually represents employees on a contingency basis, meaning that we only get paid if we win. Contact Strauss Law Group now for a free case evaluation or call us 24/7 at (805) 641-9992 or (877) 641-9992 (toll free).

Missed or Denied Meal Periods

Meal period violations are very common. A proper, lawful meal period is 30 minutes long, and the employee CANNOT work at all during those 30 minutes. Employees are entitled to a meal period if they work more than five hours at a time. They are entitled to a second meal period if they work more than 10 hours at a time. UPDATE: California meal period law is currently in flux pending the California Supreme Court’s decision in the Brinker case.

If the employee misses the meal period or has to make work-related phone calls or run errands for work during his or her meal period, he or she is entitled to ONE EXTRA HOUR OF PAY.

Importantly, California employers must keep records of each meal period each non-exempt employee takes going back three years. These records are usually in the form of time cards showing when each employee clocked out for lunch and clocked back in afterward. If an employer does not have these records, the employer will have a very difficult time proving that its employees took their meal periods. Additionally, it could subject the employer to civil penalties.

Typically, an employee may collect the one extra hour of pay for each missed meal period going back three years from the date his or her lawsuit is filed. However, it may be possible to go back as many as four years.

  • Full-time Worker works through lunch an average of three times per week. She has been employed with the same company for 10 years. Her regular rate of pay is $22. Based on this information, her employer would owe her $13,728, plus interest, additional penalties, and attorney fees.

Penalties for the Non-Payment of Wages

In any action for unpaid wages, if it can be shown that the employer willfully refused to pay minimum wage, overtime, or doubletime or to provide meal periods, the employer can be held liable for penalties. These penalties include 30 days of pay for each aggrieved employee.

  • Worker prevails on a claim for missed meal periods and can show that the employer acted willfully in denying the meal periods. Worker was making $45,000 a year in salary and she worked eight-hour days. Based on this information, Worker’s “regular” rate would be approximately $21.60, so her penalties would be 30 days x 8 hours x $21.60 per hour, or $5,184.

Contact Strauss Law Group for a FREE meal period case evaluation. It is quick and easy, and you will get a response from one of our attorneys.

Back to FAQs