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Featured / October 24, 2023

Understanding the Penalties for Failing to Provide Meal and Rest Breaks in California

As a dedicated employment law firm here in California, Sani Law continues to advocate for the rights of employees who have faced unfair treatment in the workplace. One critical area that often leads to wage and hour disputes is the failure of employers to provide proper meal and rest breaks to their employees. In California, employees are entitled to specific rest and meal break periods to ensure they can recharge and maintain their well-being during the workday. In this blog post, we will discuss the penalties that employers may face for failing to provide these essential breaks and how employees can seek justice if they have been denied their rightful time to rest and recharge.

The Importance of Meal and Rest Breaks:

Meal and rest breaks are not just an employee benefit; they are a legal right in California. These breaks are crucial for employees to remain productive and focused throughout the workday. Adequate rest and nourishment contribute to overall job satisfaction and reduce the risk of workplace accidents and burnout.

California's Meal Break Laws:

According to California labor laws, non-exempt employees who work more than five hours in a workday are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid meal break. For shifts exceeding ten hours, employees are entitled to a second 30-minute meal break. It is crucial for employers to provide these breaks within the first five hours of work for the first meal break and before the end of the tenth hour of work for the second meal break.

California's Rest Break Laws:

In addition to meal breaks, employees are entitled to rest breaks. Non-exempt employees should receive a 10-minute paid rest break for every four hours worked. These rest breaks are intended to provide employees with a brief period of relief from their work responsibilities.

Penalties for Violations:

Employers who fail to provide meal and rest breaks as required by California law may face significant penalties. These penalties can include:

  • Premium Pay: When an employer fails to provide a required meal or rest break, they may be required to pay premium pay to the affected employee. This premium pay is equal to one hour of the employee's regular rate of pay for each missed break.
  • Recovery of Unpaid Wages: Employees may be entitled to recover any wages that were not paid during missed meal and rest breaks.
  • Interest and Penalties: In addition to unpaid wages, employers may be subject to interest and other penalties for violating meal and rest break laws.
  • Class Action Lawsuits: In some cases, multiple employees may have experienced meal and rest break violations. This could lead to a class action lawsuit against the employer, potentially resulting in substantial monetary penalties.

Seeking Justice for Violations:

If you believe that your employer has failed to provide the required meal and rest breaks, it is essential to take action to protect your rights. Start by documenting any instances of missed breaks and keeping track of your work hours. Consult with our experienced law firm to discuss your situation and explore your options for seeking justice and recovering any unpaid wages.


Understanding the penalties for failing to provide meal and rest breaks in California is crucial for employees to assert their rights and seek fair treatment in the workplace. Employers who violate these laws may face significant consequences, and employees have the right to pursue compensation for any unpaid wages and premium pay for missed breaks. We are here to help you navigate these complexities and assert your rights if you have experienced unpaid wages, missed breaks, or unreimbursed expenses. By standing up against these violations, you contribute to a fair and just working environment for all employees in California.

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