In a typical 8-hour shift, non-exempt employees are entitled to an unpaid 30-minute meal break and two paid 10-minute breaks. The meal break must be completely uninterrupted and provided before the end of the fifth hour of work. Rest breaks must also be uninterrupted and afforded for every four hours worked (or major fraction of four hours).
Employees who work more than 5 hours per day are entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes that must begin before the end of the fifth hour of their shift. However, an employee who works less than 6 hours in a day can agree to waive his or her meal break. In certain limited scenarios, an employee can agree to an “on-duty” meal break where the employee works during the meal break and is paid for the time. An on-duty meal break must be in writing and the employee must have the right to revoke the agreement at any time.
Where an employee works more than 10 hours in a day, the employee is entitled to a second meal break of at least 30 minutes that must start before the end of the tenth hour of the shift. The second meal break may be waived if the employee does not work more than 12 hours and does not waive the first meal break.
Employees who work more than 3.5 hours per day are entitled to a 10-minute off-duty rest break. Employees who work over 6 hours are entitled to a second rest break and employees who work over 10 hours are entitled to a third rest break.
To the extent possible, rest breaks must be in the middle of each shift. Rest breaks are considered hours worked and must be paid.
It’s important to keep in mind that meal and rest breaks must be uninterrupted. Employers must relieve employees of all duties and relinquish control over how employees spend their time. Employees who are required to monitor phones or who are not permitted to leave the work premises while on break are receiving noncompliant breaks in violation of California law.