Hourly workers make up approximately 58% of the American labor force. California law provides for and protects the rights of these workers. One important provision within California’s labor laws is the right to meal breaks and rest breaks. However, employers aren’t always up front or upright in their dealings with employees in these matters.

Here’s what’s legal—and what’s not—when it comes to lunch:

  • If you work five hours or more, your employer must give you a lunch break of at least thirty minutes
  • If you work more than ten hours, your employer must give you a second meal break
  • If you work at all during your lunch break, your employer must pay you
  • Your meal period should only be on-call if the circumstances of your job make it necessary (ex. You are the sole person at the storefront) or if there is a prior written agreement
  • If you cannot leave work during lunch, your employer must pay you for the time, whether you worked through the break or not

What happens if my employer fails to give me my lunch break?

If your employer fails to provide you with the lunch period, you are to receive one hour of your usual pay per day, which is known as meal period premium pay. If your employer again fails to compensate you, it is time to file a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.