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When do California employers need to pay for a worker’s breaks?

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2024 | Wage And Hour Claims |

There are federal laws and California state statutes that establish the right to compensation for time worked. Hourly employees have certain legal protections entitling them to wages for the time that they work. Not only must employers pay workers consistently for all time worked, but they may also need to pay overtime wages when workers are on the job for very long shifts, work seven days in a row or put in more than 40 hours in a single week.

Additionally, California law expands on pay rights for workers. There are some scenarios in which employees deserve a paid break. When must companies allow workers to take a break from their job functions while continuing to pay them?

Break rights depend on shift length

Workers in California have the right to take both paid and unpaid breaks in certain circumstances. Once a worker has been on the clock for five hours, they have the right to a 30-minute unpaid meal break. Employers do not have to pay them but do need to give them an opportunity to eat and rest. Workers who put in more than 12 hours per shift may receive a second unpaid meal break.

Paid breaks become available after four hours on the job. An employee should receive a paid 10-minute respite break for every four hours of active work they perform for the company. A worker on the clock for eight hours should receive two 10-minute breaks. Someone working 12-hour shifts could be eligible for three paid 10-minute breaks.

Companies sometimes pressure workers into not taking their legally permitted breaks. Other times, they adjust payroll records and do not compensate workers for that time the way that they should. Employers may also try to punish or retaliate against workers who demand their pay for breaks, refuse to give up their legal break times or educate their co-workers about paid break rights. Retaliation can be a major concern for those pushing back against improper workplace practices.

Break rule violations are among the top causes of wage and hour claims in California. Understanding the rights that workers have can make it easier to fight back when companies violate those rights.

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