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What is break time compensation in California?

A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows there were more than 18,500,000 workers employed in California at the end of 2022. To help protect this large number of workers, California has robust worker protection laws, including specific regulations regarding paid and unpaid breaks for employees.

These laws help safeguard workers from potential exploitation and ensure that they receive fair compensation for their work. Do employers in California need to pay employees while they are on a break?

California break time laws

In California, labor laws require employers to provide paid rest breaks to employees. These rest periods usually last ten minutes for every four hours of work. It means employees should remain on the payroll during these breaks, and employers should not deduct any amount from their wages.

Meal breaks and compensation

Employers must provide a meal break of at least 30 minutes to employees who work more than five hours a day. Yet, employers do not need to pay employees during these meal breaks unless the employees are still completing required job duties during that time.

On-call breaks

The issue of compensation becomes more complex when employees are on-call during breaks. If an employer requires employees to stay on-call during rest or meal breaks, the employer must compensate them for their time, regardless of whether the employees perform any work during this period.

Unpaid break penalties

If employers fail to provide appropriate breaks, they may face penalties. Employees can receive one extra hour of regular pay for each day that a rest break is not provided and an additional hour for each day a meal break is not provided. This penalty provision underscores the importance of adhering to the break-time laws of California.

Employers in California should pay employees during specific types of rest breaks. Knowing these laws can help employees understand their rights and employers maintain compliance.


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