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Am I entitled to a lunch break?

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Understanding your rights as a California worker is the first step toward getting a fair wage. California has many special employment rules that do not apply to the other 49 states.

One good example of this is the required meal break. According to the State of California Department of Industrial Relations, you must have a 30-minute lunch or meal break if you work more than five hours in one day.

Can I waive my lunch?

Under certain circumstances, yes. In order for you to wave your mandatory lunch period under California law, you must not work more than 6 hours in a day if you wish to waive your lunch period.

Keep in mind that if you decide to waive your right to a lunch period, there must be consent on both your part and the part of your employer. Even if you are only working 5 and a half hours in one day, you are still entitled to the 30-minute lunch period if you want it.

Is the meal break paid?

This depends on the nature of the meal break. If the employee has to do anything related to his or her job during the 30-minute meal break, then the employer must compensate the employee. If the employee is not working during this 30-minute break, then the employer does not pay the employee.

Employers and employees may not mutually decide to make a lunch break “on-duty” unless the employee cannot halt all duties for 30 minutes. An example would be a lone security guard working at night. Somebody would need to monitor the video feeds at all times. Thus, in this situation the employer would pay for the security guard’s 30-minute lunch break.