Bartz Law Group

Employee Rights Advocates

Are California Exempt Employees Entitled to Lunch Breaks?

exempt employees

Yes, exempt employees in California are entitled to meal breaks. This right is outlined under the California lunch break law for exempt employees.

Besides the obvious reason, feeding, and meal breaks help employees rejuvenate and return to work refreshed. All exempt employees should familiarize themselves with California lunch break law for exempt employees to avoid exploitation.

Benefits of Lunch Breaks to Employees

Lunch breaks play a crucial role in enhancing employee well-being and productivity. These breaks provide an opportunity for physical nourishment, allowing employees to refuel and maintain their energy levels throughout the day.

A balanced meal during the break helps improve concentration and cognitive function, leading to higher performance levels. Additionally, lunch breaks offer a chance for social interaction and team building, fostering positive relationships among colleagues.  

Moreover, breaks allow employees to disconnect from work momentarily, reducing stress levels and promoting mental rejuvenation. By stepping away from tasks, employees can return with renewed focus and creativity.

Legal Protections for Exempt Employee Lunch Breaks in California

Here are key legal protections for exempt employee lunch breaks in California.

Meal Break Duration

Meal breaks must be uninterrupted periods, during which employees are relieved of all work duties and are free to engage in personal activities. However, if the nature of the work prevents an exempt employee from taking a full meal break, they may agree to an on-duty meal break, provided it is compensated.

Timing and Penalties

Exempt employees’ meal breaks must be provided no later than the end of the fifth hour of work. Failure to provide a timely meal break entitles the employee to one additional hour of pay at their regular rate for each day the meal break is missed or delayed.

Employee Consent

Exempt employees have the right to voluntarily waive their meal break if the total work period does not exceed six hours. However, this waiver must be mutually agreed upon.

Lunch break waivers can be revoked at any time by the employee. Employers should maintain proper documentation of such agreements to demonstrate compliance with labor laws.

On-Duty Meal Breaks

If the nature of an exempt employee’s work prevents them from being fully relieved of duty during a meal break, an on-duty meal period may be permitted. This requires a written agreement between the employer and the employee.

The employee must be compensated for the on-duty meal break. Employers should ensure that on-duty meal breaks are the exception and not the norm.

Retaliation Protection

California law prohibits employers from retaliating against exempt employees who exercise their rights to meal breaks. Employees are protected from any adverse actions for asserting their right to take meal breaks or filing complaints regarding violations, such as:

  • Termination
  • Reassignment
  • Demotion, or
  • Reduced hours.

Exempt employees in California are entitled to a 30-minute meal break if they work for more than five hours a day. If your right to meal breaks has been infringed by your employer, seek legal help to resolve the matter.