Man on unpaid meal break

The first step in determining whether a California employee is entitled to an uninterrupted 30 minute meal break is to determine if they are a nonexempt employee. Exempt employees are not entitled to meal breaks. Nonexempt employees must receive meal breaks.

Nonexempt Employees:

For employees with a supervisory title, they are likely to be nonexempt under California labor laws if they earn less than twice minimum wage, do not regularly supervise two or more full-time employees 51% or more of the time, or spend 51% or more of their time engaging in independent discretion making.

Nonexempt employees do not engage in independent discretion more than 51% of the time

There are many exceptions about what constitutes an exempt or nonexempt employee. You must consult an experienced wage and hour lawyer if you are unsure whether you are exempt. Wage lawyers at 1-661-412-9600 can advise whether you have a case worth taking.

An experienced labor law firm will ask the following questions to determine whether a meal break violation has occurred:

  • Did the employer prevent you from taking an uninterrupted 30 minute meal break before the end of their 5th shift? If so, how?

  • How many meal breaks were prevented? Weekly, monthly, overall.

  • What was your rate of pay?

  • If you were not employed on a full-time basis how many hours per week did you work?

  • How long was each of your shifts?

  • Are you aware of other employees who want to sue for this?

  • BONUS ISSUE: Employees who work less than 6 hours a day can waive their meal break


Entitlement to California rest breaks, like entitlement to meal breaks, depends on whether the employee is nonexempt. The same test for meal breaks also applies for rest breaks.

An experienced wage and hour law firm, like the one at 1-661-412-9600 will ask the following questions:

  • Did the employer prevent the employee from taking an uninterrupted 10 minute rest break if the employee worked 3.5 hours or more?

  • Did the employer prevent the employee from taking a second uninterrupted 10 minute rest break during the second half of a shift of more than 6 hours?

  • How was the employee prevented from taking an uninterrupted rest break?

  • If appears to be a rest break case, what was your rate of pay?

  • If appears to be a rest break case, if you suspect the employee was not full-time how many hours per week did they work?

  • How many rest breaks were prevented per day, per week, per month, overall?

  • Are you aware of other employees who want to sue for this?

BONUS ISSUE: Employers can pay employees one hour of pay for missed meal or rest breaks


Meal and rest break violations lead to additional violations of the California Labor Code. Without Private Attorney General penalties it is unlikely one individual’s meal or rest break case is likely to be worth more than $30,000.00. There are, however, exceptions including employees who worked for four years without receiving meal and rest breaks, or employees who earned more than $20.00 or $30.00 an hour. There are non-class meal and rest break cases worth close to $100,000 per employee.

Ideally, meal and rest break cases are brought on behalf of a group of individuals. The group can be a few employees, or a class action.

The Employment Lawyers Group obtained the following recent results for meal and rest break cases:

$400,000 following a won binding arbitration. 5 employees had individual recoveries and $50,000.00 went towards PAGA penalties which were shared with a larger group

$182,500 for a group of 8 denied meal and rest breaks

$800,000 for a class action involving missed meal breaks

As you can see, meal and rest break cases are worth bringing. A serious law firm with a serious arbitration, trial, and high value settlement record will be attracted to a meal and rest break case that involves multiple employees. In lawsuits involving multiple employees it may be harder for the employer to win. In addition, the amount of damage at stake is large enough to attract a quality law firm.

Quality law firms like the Employment Lawyers Group are connected to a number of smaller, less established law firms. Some of these firms were started by ex-employees of the larger firm. Sometimes firms like the Employment Lawyers Group have a mentor relationship with a younger attorney who has more recently started a law firm. Commonly, those smaller less established firms are referred individual meal and rest break cases for just one individual. They may take a meal break case worth $10,000 or less. Smaller, less established law firms are often not easy for a consumer to find on their own. Nor are they set up to take new client calls from a stranger.

Whether you have a small meal or rest break case, or a large one you should start your legal inquiry with the Employment Lawyers Group. The law firm has considerable experience and success in wage and hour claims including meal and rest break violations. If they cannot help you, they can refer you to somebody who can.

Coffee Break Unpaid Wages

Contact an experienced Bakersfield employment attorney today. Serving All Of Kern County Including: Arvin, Bakersfield, Lebec, Mojave, Ridgecrest, Taft, And Wasco. Give us a call for a free consultation at 1-661-412-9600 to talk to a Bakersfield employee lawyer.