What if My Employer Denies Me of A Meal Break? 1 Illegal Move Your Job Might Make

December 6, 2023

What if My Employer Denies Me of A Meal Break? 1 Illegal Move Your Job Might Make

A meal break is required by California Law

A meal break is legally required for many employers in the state of California.

Employees will often use a meal break not only for lunch, but other reasons, such as:

  • Socializing with colleagues
  • Making personal phone calls
  • Sending personal emails
  • Running quick errands
  • Meditation/prayer

In California, a meal break is legally mandated by the state

There are actually specific rules for a meal break, which are defined as:

  • An uninterrupted 30-minute unpaid meal break for working more than five hours in a day. 
  • An additional 30-minute unpaid meal break for working more than 12 hours in a day.

There are some variations. 

Those employed in the motion picture and television industry are required to take a meal break at six hours. Additionally, there are other laws for farm workers or domestic workers.

While most employees are given meal breaks, there are occasions when they are denied such periods by their employers.

It is illegal for an employer to reject their employees a meal break if they are working over five hours a day. Your employer is required to pay an additional one-hour worth of work for any violation of the law. 

There are different situations that could arise where an employee is denied a meal break.

Imagine Julius is told by their supervisor that there is too much work right now at their advertising firm, and Julius needs to work 8-hours straight to complete their tasks. This is illegal, as Julius needs at least 30 minutes for a meal break at the 5 hour mark.

With that said, it’s not uncommon for employees to ignore meal break periods. 

Think of a situation where Crystal starts a new job working in promotions at a TV station. Her supervisor tells her she’s not meeting the quality standards of her colleagues, and she needs to get more done during her shift.

This creates an unfortunate situation, as Crystal might decide to work during her meal break due to fear of losing her job.

Woman takes a meal break at her desk

An employer forcing their employees to skip a meal period could also be a form of retaliation

According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, “retaliation occurs when an employee engages in an activity protected by law and then suffers an adverse employment action as a result of that protected activity”.

Let’s say Julius reports to their HR department about their supervisor’s mistreatment of others. In the coming weeks, Julius is told they need to skip their meal period without a valid reason.

Julius is the victim of retaliation for their reporting. 

There are different ways to try handling a denial of your meal period.

First, you can always go to the HR department at your place employment. They should be made aware of the violations.

Additionally, you can file a wage claim with the California Division of Labor Standards. Their website includes more information about the process.

Another possibility is filing a lawsuit against your employer. 

If your employer is breaking the law by failing to provide you with the proper break period, an attorney can help you recover funds.

At C&B Law Group, our Los Angeles employment attorneys are prepared to help you get the justice you deserve. We will hold all parties responsible for your break denial. 

No employer is above the law. Let us assist you with recovering the wages you are owed.

We work on a contingency basis, meaning you owe us no attorney fees until your case is successfully settled. Our supportive staff is available to answer any questions via phone, email, or text as well.

Get in touch with the LA employment attorneys at C&B Law Group today for a free consultation

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