Many workers do not realize that their meal times are mandated and protected by law. If an employer violates your right to a break, then you might have an actionable wage and hours claim. In California, employers that violate these rights are subject to investigations by the Department of Industrial Relations. This post will review the general rights that most employees enjoy in California regarding their meal breaks. If you have more specific questions, you may want to consult with an attorney.
California prohibits employers from working an employee for longer than five hours without a meal break of at least 30 minutes. There are a few exceptions. For example, if you work a total of six hours or less, and both you and your employer agree to waive the meal requirement.
What you may not realize is that you must be relieved of all duties during your break. If you are not, then your meal is considered "on" and you should receive pay during your lunch break. This is prohibited unless the nature of your job does not allow you to take a full break and you agree in writing to waive your traditional break. Moreover, you are permitted to revoke this waiver at any time in writing.
If you believe that your employer violated your right to a specified meal break, then you may want to call a lawyer. Lunch breaks are subject to several exceptions depending on the job you are doing. An attorney can review your case and determine the best course of action to litigate your case. There are a few options, from traditional lawsuits to investigations by the Department of Industrial Relations. An attorney can guide you through the various options to ensure you maximize your opportunity for fair compensation.