Every state has different rules when it comes to governing meal breaks. The majority of states in the country defer to the Fair Labor Standards Act. However, California has specific rules that govern meal breaks within the state.
California law is much more protective of its workers than the general Federal mandate. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, California law mandates that if a non-exempt employee works for more than 5 hours, they must have a meal break.
What is a meal break?
In order for a break to count as a legal meal break, it must be for at least 30 minutes. In addition, the employer must not require that the employee do anything related to work for this period of time.
In the event that an employee works more than 10 hours in a day, the employee may take a second meal break. In the event that an employer does not provide a proper meal break for a non-exempt employee, the employer must pay the employee 1 hour of pay for each day that this occurs.
Can I waive my meal break?
This is possible, but only in very specific circumstances. In the event that an employee can complete their workday in six hours, the employee may waive the right to a meal break. In this situation, it is smart to have this agreement in writing.
It is also possible to waive meal breaks in the event that employees have duties of a nature that prevents them from having a meal break with no work duties at that time. Again, having this agreement in writing is wise from a legal standpoint.