Employee Rights Attorney

Mission Viejo, California

Q: Are there laws about when to schedule break times? My company is giving us break times that make no sense at all. One day, my last break was scheduled at 5:30 p.m. and my shift ended at 6:00 p.m. Obviously, a break at this time is completely useless to me. My supervisor said she couldn’t do anything about it because the schedules are created by a computer program “in order to reflect the needs of the department.” One of my co-workers is routinely given breaks that are 4½ hours apart. At other times she is given breaks that all take place during the first half of the day and none during the latter half. Are these procedures legal?

A: “There are in fact laws about when to schedule break times,” says employee-rights attorney Don Sessions of Don D. Sessions Law Corp., Mission Viejo. “A paid 10-minute break or rest period is required for nonexempt employees for each four hours (or major portion of it) worked.

“For example, no rest break is required for working 0 to 3.5 hours, one break for 3.5 to 6 hours, two breaks for 6 to 10 hours, etc. A break should normally be in the middle of that work period. Certainly if a break is taken at the end or the beginning of the day, or just before or after the required lunch break, its purpose is defeated.

“As of this year, for each day of work the employer does not allow an employee to take the required break, the employee is owed an additional hour of pay.

“If you complain about it to the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, your employer may be required to comply with the law. It is illegal to retaliate against you if you complain about break times.”