Know your right to a fair rest period or meal break

You may think that your employer is following all the rules when they give you breaks, but that's not always true. Depending on when the breaks are, your employer could be in violation of California's wage and hour laws.

According to California law, employers can't make employees work over five hours a day without a break of at least 30 minutes. There is an exception, which is that you may choose to waive your right to a break if your shift is no more than six hours long.

Are there other exceptions to meal- or rest-break laws?

Yes, another exception takes place in the motion-picture industry. In that industry, employees must have a break of at least 30 minutes within six hours of work and another in the following six hours.

Do you receive pay for your meal break?

Depending on how you're treated during your break, you may deserve payment. If you are relieved of all duties during your break, then you can take the brake without pay. However, if you are continuing your work activities while resting or eating, then you should be paid for your time.

The only time when an on-duty meal break is permitted is if your employer agrees to it and you can show that it is impossible to relieve yourself of all work-related duties while you are taking your rest period.

Should there be a cafeteria or special place to eat at work?

Sometimes. If you are required to eat at your place of employment, then the employer must provide you with a suitable place to do so. If you work night shifts between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., then it is your employer's duty to make sure that you have a suitable sheltered place to eat as well as a place where you can obtain hot food and drinks, or heat up your own food or drinks.

These are just a few of the rules and regulations that are in place in California. If you believe that your right to a fair break is being violated, then it's a good idea to discuss your case with someone who is more familiar with the laws. There are some exceptions to the rules, but, for the most part, all employees in California have a right to fair breaks within an appropriate amount of time for each shift.

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