California’s Meal Break laws for Employees. Let’s Eat!

For most employers who are responsible and care about their businesses and thus their employees’ wellbeing, a lot of laws on the books seem baffling. As most of know, happy employees are productive employees and productive employees lead to bigger profits and stronger businesses. Many of the laws seem so obvious as to compel one to ask ‘who would do that?’ or ‘who wouldn’t do that?’

One such ‘who wouldn’t do that?’ example are the laws and regulations that govern employee meal and rest breaks in California. In California, an employer may not employ an employee for a work period of more than five hours per day without providing the employee with a meal period of not less than thirty minutes. If the total work period per day of the employee is no more than six hours then the meal period can be waived by the mutual consent of both the employer and employee. Now what happens when the employee works longer than a traditional eight hour day? Well then an additional thirty minute meal break of no less than thirty minutes needs to be provided except if the total work day is less than twelve hours then that meal break can also be waived by mutual consent.

Now this being California, home to Hollywood, there are additional rules that apply to workers in the motion picture industry where they may work no longer than six hours without meal period of not less than thirty minutes not more than one hour. The next meal (hey, days on set can be long!) needs to start no later than six hours after the previous meal break ended.

Most of this information is available from  the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order 12-2001, Section 11(A) and various calculators are available online to determine the needs that your particular business needs to pay attention to.

These rules are also mentioned in a very basic way on the Official Notice of California Minimum Wage (MW-2019) issued by the California’s Labor Commissioner’s Office.  Make sure you have adopted the policies and switched out this poster which must be posted next to your IWC or Industry Occupation Order in a conspicuous location where your employees can see it. This new order amends the meals and lodging credits in MW-2017, as well as the IWC’s industry and occupation orders.