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California Meal & Rest Breaks For Employees

Labor Code §512 and the applicable Wage Order (usually Section 11 of the applicable Wage Order) require employers to provide an unpaid, 30-minute, duty-free, uninterrupted meal period when a nonexempt employee works more than five hours in a workday, and a second 30-minute, duty-free, uninterrupted meal period when an employee works more than 10 hours in a workday.


If you have employees who are eligible to waive the meal period (rest breaks may not be waived):

Waiver of Meal Period

The employer and employee are permitted to waive the 30-minute meal period in two circumstances:

  1. When an employee’s work period for the day does not exceed six hours
  2. When an employee works more than 10 hours per day, the second meal period may be waived if:
    • The employee works no more than 12 hours that day, and;
    • As long as the first meal period was not waived

On-Duty Meal Period

On-duty meal periods are only legally permitted under California law for the following:

  • An employee who works over six hours when the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all duties
  • When the parties agree in writing to the on-duty meal period
  • When the employee is paid for the on-duty meal period

The written agreement must state the following:

  • The employee may, in writing, revoke the agreement at any time
  • The employee must be allowed to eat his or her meal while performing his or her duties