When you start a new job, you need to have a basic understanding of what your employer should give you as an employee. This ranges from pay to benefits and overtime. You also need to have an idea of what kinds of breaks you are entitled to in California.
Before this goes any further, remember that you are only entitled to these breaks under California law if you are classified as an employee or non-exempt worker. Read more to learn about all the little breaks you get during the day.
What are Meal and Rest Breaks?
Meal and rest breaks are defined under California law as the breaks you receive for lunch or dinner and to rest during the day. Because they are spelled out under California law, they will be called meal and rest breaks during onboarding with any company. The first sign of trouble should be that your employer never talks about meal or rest breaks. Even if you have been told you will get them, you need to know when and how.
Which Breaks Are You Entitled To?
In California, you are entitled to a 30-minute meal break if you work five hours or more. If the shift is longer, the break has to occur in the first five hours you worked that day. If you work 10 or more hours, you are entitled a second 30-minute meal break.
This is very important because, as a non-exempt employee, you are also entitled to some form of overtime along with these breaks if you are working more than eight hours in a day.
Moreover, if you work at least 3.5 hours in a day, you are entitled to a 10-minute rest break. If you work another four hours, you will get another 10-minute rest break. These breaks are different from your meal break and do not need to happen at the same time as your meal break.
When Will You Not Get a Break?
You will not get a break when you work a shift that is three hours and under. Plus, you do not get these breaks if you are classified as a contractor or exempt employee. Exempt employees and contractors often need to ask for more money because they are not guaranteed a break of any kind (along with overtime, but that is another story entirely.)
What Should You Do if You Are Not Given Breaks?
If you know that you are entitled to breaks and have not received those breaks, you should first speak to your manager. This is your supervisor’s one and only chance to solve the problem. The person you speak to might not have any idea you were deprived of breaks. If so, they can solve the problem.
If not, you should report your employer to the California Department of Industrial Relations and hire an attorney who can help you.
Hire an Employment Lawyer Who Can Review Your Case
Hire an employment lawyer to help you determine how you should be compensated for this level of mistreatment. Your lawyer can look into how you have been classified, read over your timecards, and calculate how many breaks you should have been given. In the end, your employer does not have the right to deprive you of breaks if you are a non-exempt employee.