How long are rest breaks required to last in California?

Employers should know the difference between rest breaks and meal breaks under California law

How long are rest breaks required to last in California?

Ten minutes is how long employees are legally required to rest under California employment law. Anything less, and you risk a citation from Cal/OSHA.

These rest periods should also be uninterrupted and not broken into more minor pauses by the employer. The amount of rest breaks an employee receives will depend on how many hours they have worked. For practicality, it’s best to offer the rest breaks in the middle of the employee’s work period.

Read more: 10 meal and rest break facts every California employer should know

According to California employment law, the quick breaks should be paid for by the employer. However, this doesn’t mean that an employer can interrupt an employee’s rest period solely for the reason that they are being paid during that time.

Under California law, a minimum 10-minute rest break is offered to an employee after 3.5 hours of work, a second rest break is offered after six hours of work and another rest break if they worked for at least 10 hours. After 10 hours of work, the employee will continue to receive a rest break after every four more hours of work.

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It’s against the law for companies to offer rest and meal breaks as one combined work break. For example, providing an employee an hour-long break instead of two rest breaks and one meal break to be distributed throughout their shift is unfair and not allowed. Rest and meal breaks are separated to ensure employees are receiving enough rest throughout their work shift to prevent burnout and fatigue.

An employee has every right to sue the employer should they violate the state law on rest and meal breaks. The terms and conditions on breaks are included in the employment agreement, and any breach of those conditions allows the employee to file a complaint against the company. For example, if the employer refuses to provide adequate breaks, the employee can sue and be entitled to receive a payment worth one-hour wages per day the employee was denied any breaks.

For more facts on rest breaks and meal breaks in California, click here.

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