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Make sure employers are giving you required breaks

There are many rules and regulations to protect workers in California, and giving appropriate breaks is one of them. The state requires employers to give rest and meal breaks when employees work a certain number of hours. If an employer does not grant these breaks, there are consequences.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, workers get a 10-minute rest break for every four hours of work. This rule excludes personal attendants, professional actors and sheepherders. Certain workers, such as those physically active in motion pictures, can take additional rest breaks. These breaks should ideally happen in the middle of a work shift, but employers can alter this to keep operations running smoothly.

The California government outlines additional rules for meal breaks. When employees work five hours or more, they get a meal break for 30 minutes. The exception is when they work six hours or fewer and both employee and employer agree to skip the break. Those who work 10 hours or more can take two meal breaks, unless the shift is 12 hours or less and there is mutual agreement to forgo a second meal. If the meal occurs while performing any job duty, or if an employee must remain at the worksite to eat, the employer must pay for the time; otherwise, it is an unpaid break. 

Employers who do not follow these requirements face financial penalty. For every day they do not provide the necessary rest and/or meal break, they must pay for one extra hour of work. If an employer does not pay this extra wage, the employee can file a wage claim.


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