Employers in California are required by law to give their employees breaks, the quantity and length determined by the number of hours they are on duty. These laws apply to nonexempt employees only. If workers are not being given these breaks, the employer is required to compensate them monetarily.

According to the Department of Labor, employees who work five hours are to be given a half-hour break for a meal. If the employee is only working six hours in a shift, he or she may waive the break, as long as the employer agrees. Workers who are on duty for 10 hours must be given a second half-hour break, which can be waived if the total amount of working hours is no more than 12 hours and the first break was not waived.

The State of California Department of Industrial Relations states an employee must also be allowed to take a 10 minute rest break for every four hours of work, and it should be taken in the middle of the shift. There should be a separate area that is appropriate for rest, and these rest periods can be staggered among workers so that flow of work is not interrupted.

Employers are also required to give nursing mothers a lactation break. This break can include the regular break time, and the employer needs to make reasonable arrangements for a private area or room.

If an employer does not allow an employee to take the required breaks, he or she must pay the employee one additional hour per day the rest is not taken. If this money is not paid, the worker can file a wage claim.