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California Meal and Rest Break Policy (Free Template)

Read on as we cover everything you need to know about the policy.
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The benefit of a well-structured meal and rest break policy is two-fold: it ensures employers meet the legal requirements set by California labor laws, safeguarding your company from potential lawsuits and penalties. At the same time, it’s also a channel for fostering a workplace environment where employee’s well being is honored to reduce stress and boost productivity. 

Moreover, a documented policy streamlines management, enabling efficient record-keeping.

Our free California Meal and Rest Break Policy template serves as a resourceful tool that enables you to enact a policy that adheres to California labor regulations and safeguards your employees’ physical and mental well-being, resulting in a win-win situation for all.

Read on to find out how you can create one for your business.

What Does a Sample California Meal and Rest Break Policy Entail? 

By definition, the sample meal and rest break policy in California is a set of rules and regulations designed to ensure workers’ well-being and fair treatment. 

California employers must provide non-exempt employees with meals and rest breaks during their shifts. An employer should provide a 30-minute unpaid meal break for every five hours worked and an additional 30-minute meal break for employees who work more than ten hours in a shift.

The employer should also provide 10-minute paid rest breaks to non-exempt employees for every four hours worked. 

Compliance with California employee break policy is crucial to maintaining a healthy and productive workforce while avoiding potential legal penalties for non-compliance.

Check out our comprehensive guide on California Break Laws to learn more about meals and rest break requirements.

Who Needs To Use California Meal and Rest Break Policy?

Like many states, California labor laws distinguish different types of employees depending on how they work. Exempt and non-exempt differ in terms of their work shifts, job title, and pay structure. 

California wage and hour law does not apply to exempt employees. They may be entitled to unpaid meal breaks, but most do not qualify for rest breaks. On the other hand, California labor laws apply to non-exempt employees, and they are entitled to overtime pay, a minimum wage, and meal and rest breaks. 

In most cases, there are three key requirements to determine whether an employee is an exempt employee under California law: 

  • A minimum salary that is no less than double the state minimum wage for full-time employment (40 hours a week) in California.
  • Common positions that fit under the white-collar exemption include administrative, executive, and professional jobs. Employees who meet this requirement will be exempt from the right to 10-minute rest periods, overtime compensation, and minimum wage.
  • The employee duties should involve the use of discretion and independent judgment.

If these requirements are met, the employee is classified as “exempt” from minimum wage, overtime, and rest break requirements, excluding meal break requirements.

In addition to these requirements, a handful of other occupations are exempt from California’s labor laws. They include commission employees, computer professionals, physicians and surgeons, outside salespersons, private school teachers, truck drivers, union employees, and independent contractors.

California Meal and Rest Break Obligations

California break laws have legal requirements and obligations that employers must adhere to and the rights that employees possess to ensure compliance and maintain a fair and productive environment. 

Failure to adhere to these obligations in California can result in expensive legal litigation and financial penalties.

Let’s look at each one of them in detail.

Employer Obligations

  • Employers can only employ someone for a work period of more than 5 hours if they provide an unpaid, off-duty meal break of at least 30 minutes.
  • The employee’s meal break must happen no later than the end of the employee’s fifth hour of work.
  • The employer must provide employees with uninterrupted time, relieve their employees of all their duties during the breaks, and withdraw any control over how employees spend their break periods.
  • The employer should record the beginning and ending times of the breaks to show that the break period was provided to the employee.
  • The employee may waive their meal break if their total workday shift is 6 hours or less, provided mutual consent exists between the employer and the employee. If the employee works more than 10 hours in a workday, they may waive the second meal period by mutual consent, provided they work at most 12 hours and have not waived the first meal break period. 
  • Employers can conduct routine reviews of employees’ timecard records to ascertain the accuracy of employee time reporting and identify any trends of breaks being skipped.

Employee Guarantees

  • The employee should be relieved of all duties during the break. If the employee’s break time is interrupted, they must be compensated at their regular pay rate.
  • Employees should not be prohibited from leaving the premises during the breaks.
  • The employee can have an “on-duty” meal period in cases where their work’s nature makes it impossible for them to be fully relieved of all responsibilities. 

PRO TIP: For the on-duty meal breaks to be valid, two conditions must be met: the job’s nature must indeed prevent complete relief from duties, and a written agreement between the employee and the employer must exist, indicating mutual consent for this on-duty meal period. Additionally, the employee retains the right to terminate this agreement for an “on duty” meal period at any point, as stipulated and safeguarded by The Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders and the California Labor Code (IWC Orders, Section 11, Order 16 Section 10).

  • As determined in the case of Bono Enterprises, Inc. v. Bradshaw (1995), if an employer requires the presence of an employee at the worksite throughout their designated meal period, the meal period must be compensated, irrespective of whether the employee’s duties are temporarily suspended.

How Can Timeero Help Me Implement California Meal and Rest Break Policy?

Dealing with California break compliance can be challenging. Efforts to constantly remind employees to take breaks as required may sometimes fail to bear fruits. Some employees may neglect their breaks, leaving employers to deal with the complexities of collecting signatures and figuring out who is taking breaks.

timeero california breaks tracking
With Timeero, employees can easily track and verify their breaks.

Timeero’s innovative California Breaks Tracker lets you monitor and manage breaks accurately. You can learn more about it by checking the video below:

timeero daily sign off reports
Quickly and easily monitor your employees’ compliance with California’s Meal and Rest Breaks Law Timeero's user-friendly interface.

The app also allows employers to receive timely notifications whenever employees are not compliant. They can generate comprehensive reports and seamlessly export data to facilitate streamlined payroll processing and thorough audits.

Want to Stay Compliant with California Meal and Rest Break Laws?

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