Working for eight, 10 or even 12 hours straight without stopping to take a break is not only back-breakingly rough but also unhealthy. A study showed that not having lunch breaks may lead to decreased morale and burnout, both of which are bad for mental health.
However, many Californians do not realize that while federal law offers no protection with regard to lunch breaks, state law actually mandates that their employers must grant them a lunch break and other breaks given certain conditions exist.
Under California labor law, non-exempt individuals who work over five hours a day have the right to a 30-minute uninterrupted meal break without duties. Workers who work six or fewer hours have the right to waive the meal break. An on-duty meal break with pay is another option if both the employee and employer agree to one.
The law also entitles those whose workday stretches to over 10 hours in a single day to a second meal break with a minimum duration of 30 minutes that must begin before the tenth hour of the shift ends. Workers may also waive this meal break given they did not waive the first one and their shift does not exceed 12 hours.
Employees who work more than three and a half hours in a day also have the right to a rest break for every four hours or every substantial fraction of four hours (anything over two hours). Those who work over three and a half hours receive one break, over six hours a second one and over 10 hours a third one. These must last at least 10 minutes without interruption.
Workers whose bosses deny them their rightful breaks have legal recourse. Employers violating break regulations must pay monetary penalties.