Understand California break and lunch requirements

If you are opening a new California business or expanding an existing operation, you may be hiring workers for the first time. You must abide by the state’s wage and hour laws to avoid a costly lawsuit.

Review and understand the required break and lunch periods for California employees.

Meal periods

State law mandates a meal break of at least 30 minutes for every five hours an employee works. However, you and the worker can agree to skip the meal break if he or she works less than six hours. The same rule applies to waive a second meal break after at least 10 but less than 12 hours of work.

The employee can agree to an on-duty meal period. You do not have to allow employees who work through a meal break to leave early, but you must pay a worker for this type of break. For unpaid meal breaks, the person must be completely free of duty for the entire time.


If you manage California workers in the motion picture industry, they cannot work more than six hours without a 30-to-60-minute meal break. You must allow employees to take a second meal break if they are still working within six hours of the end of the first meal break.

If your company fails to meet these meal break requirements, affected employees can file a claim with the state’s Division of Labor. If the complaint has merit, you must pay the affected workers one hour of pay for every past workday on which they did not get a meal break.

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