California law has some of the most comprehensive protections for employees in the entire US. There are many aspects of California employment law that deviate from federal law, and if you are working in the state of California it is paramount that you understand these deviations.
For instance, while federal law does not mandate meal breaks for employees, California law does. According to the government of California, employees must have a 30 minute meal break when working more than 5 hours, and that employee must not be doing work during that time.
What does a meal break look like?
California law does not mandate a paid meal break. However, if the employer is going to offer an unpaid meal break, that employee may not be doing anything related to work during this period of time. For example, if an employee is sitting at his or her desk and answering work emails during the 30-minute lunch break, then the meal break is a working break. The employer must pay the employee.
There are some exceptions to this rule. Generally, if an employee is working alone and cannot be reasonably away from the workplace for a 30-minute period, then a special agreement can take place between the employee and employer in regard to the meal break.
What can I do if my employer does not provide a meal break?
If your employer is not meeting the standards of the law, you can take action. According to California law, if you are working during your meal break, the employer should pay you one hour of pay for every day of work you do not get your meal break.