California law requires that employers give their employees work breaks throughout the day. Some, termed rest breaks,
Federal law also provides some work break benefits, but state law provides more generous employee protections in terms of work breaks.
Federal Versus State Law on Work Breaks
Federal law does not require that an employer give any employee a work break. It only mandates
California law provides much more expansive benefits guaranteeing employees work breaks.
Each of these benefits has its own specific rules regarding how it applies and who
California Meal Break Rules
Meal breaks in California are off-the-clock-time for an employee. Because of that, the employee must be free to do whatever she likes during this
A "non-exempt" employee
If the employee works less than six hours in a day, the law allows her to waive the 30-minute meal break and
- Waiving the first and taking the second meal break.
- Taking the first and waiving the second meal break.
- Taking both.
California Rest Break Rules
California's labor regulations also require that employees
Under California law,
That means that an employee putting in a regular eight-hour shift
Rest Breaks Versus Restroom Breaks
It is easy to confuse rest breaks with restroom breaks, but they are not the same. The intention of the 10-minute rest periods is to allow employees to take a rest from work, not to use the bathroom. This is
That means that the fact that an employer lets employees use the toilet facilities during working hours does not fulfill the legal obligation of the employer to provide rest periods.
Exempt Employees in California
Only non-exempt employees
The largest group of exempt employees is white-collar workers
Independent contractors are also exempt, as are certain unionized employees with collective bargaining agreements that require meal breaks on a different schedule. For example, employees who work for gas and electrical companies have collective bargaining agreements that supersede the work break rules of the Labor Code.
Rules for Work Breaks
Employers cannot try to get around work breaks by asking employees to
Penalties for Failure to Comply
There are penalties in California if an employer
Likewise, an employer who denies an employee one or more lunch breaks must pay him an extra hour at his regular hourly rate. Note that it is not an extra hour per denied rest break or lunch break, but a one hour total penalty for one or more denied rest breaks and another hour total penalty for one or more denied lunch breaks.
For example, what would happen if an employee worked eight hours without being allowed any break?
Enforcing Rest and Lunch Breaks
How does an employee collect the extra hours when an employer does not provide the rest period or lunch break requirements? If an employer does not pay the additional hours of pay for
Alternatively, an employee can go to court. She can
Lactation Breaks Under Federal and State Law
The Affordable Care Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require lactation breaks. The law now requires that employers provide female employees with reasonable break periods to express breast milk for a nursing child for up to one year after the child’s birth. However, this requirement only applies across-the-board to employers having at least 50 employees. Those with fewer employees do not have to comply if they can show that it would impose an undue hardship.
However, California's Labor Code section 1030 is more broadly applicable. It states: “Every employer
Lactation Breaks Are Mandatory
The language of the statute
If it doesn't work out for a rest break to double as a lactation break, the employee
An employer who can prove that lactation breaks would seriously disrupt his business need not offer them. But this is a very high burden and if the employer cannot meet it, the consequences of refusing to provide a lactation break are severe: a civil penalty for
Type of Lactation Accommodations
Under the FLSA, an employer must provide a place for employees to take their lactation breaks that
Under California’s Labor Code,
Quantifying Lactation Breaks
Neither federal nor state law sets any hard and fast rules about the frequency or duration of lactation breaks.
The laws say that "reasonable " breaks must
The DOL outlined in the Federal Register several factors a court can use if called upon to determine what
- The time it takes the employee to get to and from the lactation space.
- Any wait time to use the space.
in the lactation area. The time it takes the employee to retrieve her pump and other supplies if no pump is provided in the lactation area. The time it takes the employee to set up her own pump if no pump is provided
- The efficiency of the pump.
- The presence or absence of a sink and running water that the employee can use to wash her hands before pumping and to clean the pump attachments when
she expressing milk. is done
- The time it takes for the employee to store the milk in a refrigerator.
Enforcing Lactation Break Rules
If an employer refuses to follow the law and provide employees with lactation breaks, an employee can
Getting results from reporting a violation to the Labor Commissioner can take time, however. Sometimes an employee can get action more quickly by
- Department of Industrial Relations: FAQs Rest Periods/Lactation Accommodation
- SHRM: 6 FAQs on California’s Meal and Rest Break Rules
- Shouse Law: Meal and Rest Break Laws for California Employees
- Nolo: California Laws on Meals and Rest Breaks
- California Labor and Employment Law: California Meal Break & Rest Break Law (2019) – Quick Calculator + Charts
- Department of Labor: Break Time for Nursing Mothers
- Cornell Law School: 29 U.S. Code § 207. Maximum hours
- Employment Lawyers: Lactation Breaks Under the Law: Explained!
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.