Is Every Employee Entitled To A Lunch Break?

While every employee is entitled to have a meal break, such breaks, whether paid or unpaid, differ by state. California labor laws have many exemptions, meaning the question about whether you qualify for meal and rest breaks can be better answered by the kind of work you perform.

 Lunch breaks are unpaid, but if your job demands that you take lunch while working, that time must be paid. When it’s not paid, you are permitted to go off-site and have your lunch or do your other personal business. This guide contains employees who are entitled to get a meal and rest breaks in California.

 Which Employee Gets Lunch Break?

Under California labor laws, workers can be either classified as exempt or non-exempt. If you are an exempt employee, your employer is not obligated to provide meal and rest breaks, and if it happens, it can only be done at your employer’s discretion. Now question then boils down to who is a non -exempt employee? A non-exempt employee is one protected by the wage and hour laws. They may include those who work in mechanical, clerical, technical jobs, among others. Such an employee is entitled to:

Receive meal and rest breaks.  
And is subject to overtime laws.

If you are a non-exempt employee working for more than five hours, the law allows you to have a 30 minutes meal break. The law steps in when your employer fails to provide such meal breaks. In such a case, you can only look for an employment lawyer to advice on how to hold your employer accountable for law violation. Such a lawyer under what it takes to file a claim on missed employment law lunch breaks in California. For any lunch break, it should be provided not later than when ending your fifth work hour. For an employee working for more than ten hours, he/she is allowed to have another 30 minutes lunch break; Again, the break should start not later than when ending the 10th work hour.

In other words, the hours a non-exempt employee should receive for their meal breaks typically depends on the number of hours they have worked. Such becomes easy for an employee because if you are working for, let’s say, 7 hours, you can decide to waive your lunch break. However, such must be agreed upon between you and your employer. It’s also possible to waive the second meal break. But this is only if you took your first lunch break. But if your job pushes you to work during such breaks, then your employer should pay for such hours under what is referred to as on-duty meal lunch.

 In California, employers are fond of misclassifying non-exempt employees as exempt. Suppose you are a non-exempt employee who is working during your lunch breaks. But your employer has decided to classify you as an exempt employee to avoid such payments. In that case, you should fight for your unpaid wages.

 Who Doesn’t Get Lunch Breaks?

 According to California law on meal and rest breaks, an exempt employee is not entitled to lunch breaks. Such employees include executives, those who perform managerial jobs, etc. Below is an example of those who may not be entitled to receive lunch breaks.

  • Independent contractors:  Employees who provide services to others as non-employees don’t receive meal or rest breaks. This doesn’t mean that such a work may not get into an employment relationship with his/her employer and be protected by the California meal and rest breaks laws. This may be due to the control the employer has on such as an employee. For instance, if you are a truck driver whose working hours are controlled by your employer, you may be entitled to lunch and rest breaks.
  • Certain unionized employees: Those who work under unions may have more generous benefits that may include having their own lunch break requirements.

 Are You Getting Your Lunch Breaks?

 There are many instances where employers misclassify employees to avoid being hooked up by the California labor laws. If you have not been receiving your lunch breaks either because your employer assumes such or he/she has classified you as an exempt employee and thus not providing lunch breaks, you may have a claim. Your employer has to compensate you for working during your lunch breaks. Such compensation must be based on the actual hours you worked. 

When taking up legal action, you also need to be conversant with the law concerning your specific case. If the nature of work requires you to be on duty during lunch breaks, your employer must have a detailed record showing hours worked. Where you may have suffered as a group of employees, you can decide to file up a class-action lawsuit with the help of experienced class-action lawyers. Your lawyer can also help you learn more about California labor laws.

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