California provides most employees the legal right to take short rest breaks, one of the main purposes of which is to have time to use the restroom. Workers also have the right to use the restroom in a reasonable manner outside of their regular rest breaks. The California Department of Industrial Relations website uses plain language to explain California labor law to workers. California offers more generous benefits to workers regarding breaks than do most other states.
Length and Frequency of Breaks
California's Industrial Welfare Commission (CIWC) mandates that employers allow nonexempt employees to take rest periods, providing that the employee works a shift longer than three and one-half hours.
The rest periods are based on total hours worked each day. Companies must provide 10 minutes of break time for each four hour work period, and should allow employees to take the rest period near the middle of the work period.
Read More: OSHA Break Requirements
Limits on Breaks
The CIWC allows employers to make employees remain on the premises during rest periods. Additionally, employers retain the right to reasonably limit the amount of time employees take to use the restroom outside of the required breaks. Employees may not extend breaks by using the restroom at the end of the break.
Using the Restroom Outside of Breaks
The CIWC addresses this issue on its website. California law does not require employees to use the restroom only during the mandated 10-minute rest breaks. An employer cannot force an employee to use any separate use of the restroom as a rest period. The two types of breaks are separate and distinct, as illustrated by California's requirement that companies provide break areas and restroom facilities that are separate from each other.
Ramifications for an Employer Not Providing Breaks
Employees not receiving their breaks can file wage claims with the Labor Commissioner's Office. Employees will be entitled to one hour of additional pay for each workday that the employer failed to provide the required breaks. The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) provides instructions to workers for filing these wage claims.
E.S. Martin is an attorney who has worked in civil litigation for more than eight years. He focuses his work in insurance, personal injury, subrogation and risk management.