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What breaks are required for employees?

If you work in California, the state requires that your employer provides a certain number and types of breaks depending on how many hours and in what industry you are working. Employers must follow these guidelines to the best of their abilities and if not, they may need to compensate the employees accordingly.

The U.S. Department of Labor outlines the requirements for meal breaks, and exceptions, for employers in California. For every five hours of work, employees get a 30-minute break for meal consumption. If the employee is working six hours or less, the worker may waive this break if there is mutual agreement between both employee and employer. The industries that are exempt from these requirements are commercial baking, broadcasting and motion picture.

According to the State of California Department of Industrial Relations, employers must also provide rest and lactation breaks. For every four hours of work, employees receive a 10-minute break, preferably in the middle of the four-hour time frame. Depending on the industry, the employer may stagger the breaks among workers to avoid interrupting continuous operations. If a female employee needs a break for lactation, the employer must provide the time and space for this as long as doing so does not dramatically interrupt operations.

Some exceptions for these requirements include:

  • Employees of facilities that provide 24-hour residential care
  • Performers
  • Crew members on commercial fishing boats 

If an employer does not grant a required break, he or she must pay for an additional hour of work for that day. If an employer is not providing these breaks and is not financially compensating the worker, the victim should file a wage complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.



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