When you were in school, you likely anticipated your lunch period. In addition to being hungry, you may have looked forward to taking a break from your studies and spending some down time with your friends. As an adult on the job, things have not changed much. Your lunch break is important for relaxing, refueling and reviving for the final hours of the workday.
Are you aware that your employer must follow certain rules for providing meal breaks and compensating you fairly for them? Unfortunately, not all employees understand their rights, and this means many are taken advantage of by their employers.
Let’s do lunch
Every state has different laws for breaks and meal periods. California’s are among the friendliest to employees. Nevertheless, if you are unaware of the law in your area, you may not recognize when your employer is denying you your right to a break or the compensation you deserve in lieu of a break. While certain industries and circumstances may be exceptions, the following are general rules for meal breaks in this state:
- Your employer should allow you a 30-minute meal period for every five hours of your shift.
- Your employer may pay you for that meal break, but the law does not require it.
- During your meal break, your employer must relieve you of all duties, including answering the phone, cleaning your workstation or replying to emails.
- If you are on call or on duty during your scheduled break, your employer must pay you for that time.
- If your employer requires you to remain on site during your meal break, you must receive pay for your break even if you have no duties during that time.
Besides your meal break, you may also be eligible for shorter, paid rest breaks during your shift. For example, if you work four hours or less, your employer should provide a 10-minute break on the clock. An eight-hour shift means you should get two rest breaks and a meal break, depending on the type of job you have.
Taking a break is not an option
You may be an ambitious or industrious employee who would rather keep working and get the job done than to stop in the middle of your shift for a break. However, by law, your employer should insist that you take a break for the sake of compliance as well as for your good health and well-being.
These summarize state law, but local regulations may differ. Additionally, employment laws change frequently, and employers should remain up–to–date and in compliance with those ordinances.