Meal And Rest Breaks For Hourly Employees: Legal Reasons #19

california-wage-chartAlmost all hourly employees know about overtime and their meal breaks, how I am often surprised at how many employees are not aware about rest breaks, meal break violations and what the penalties are for employees who fail to provide you with these breaks appropriately.

You may not employ an employee for a work period of more than five hours per day without providing him/her with a 30-minute unpaid meal break. You owe the employee one hour of pay if the employee is unable to take one or more meal breaks.

You must also give non-exempt employees an opportunity to take a 10-minute paid rest break for every four hours worked, or major fraction thereof.

If one or more meal breaks or one or more rest breaks are not given, you owe the employee one hour of pay for any missed meal breaks and any missed rest breaks for a maximum of two hours per day.

The additional pay for a missed meal or rest break must be included in the employee’s next paycheck.

Employees are owed “premium pay” when they miss a meal break and/or a rest break in one day. The law requires employers to pay two hours of premium pay for each day that two separate violations occur.

The additional hour of pay requirement is found in Labor Code section 226.7, which discusses the remedies together, rather than in separate sections. However, the actual language of the statute states that if a meal or rest break is not provided, the employer owes the employee one hour of pay for each work day that the meal or rest break is not provided.


1. Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal.4th 1004 (2012)

2. United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, 192 Cal.App.4th 1425 (2011)

3. Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., 40 Cal. 4th 1094 (2007)

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