Employee Rights Attorney

Mission Viejo, California

Q: The company I work for has both hourly and salaried employees. We all work 8½ hours per day, but since we receive a paid hour for lunch, we have been told that we are not entitled to any breaks.

Is this legal?

A: Nonexempt employees are entitled to a paid break of 10 minutes in the first and second half of an 8-hour shift. The breaks should fall in the middle of those periods. In addition, the employer is required to give the employee at least an unpaid break of half an hour in the middle of the workday for lunch.

In your situation, it does not matter whether you are paid hourly or earn a salary. Many people make the mistake of thinking that if they are salaried, they do not deserve the protection of these laws.

Being salaried is only one of many requirements to be exempt from these rules. You also must be a manager, a professional or an administrator, and perform these duties for more than half of your work time.

If you believe the breaks are important, you should certainly insist on them. However, it appears that if might be more profitable for you to remain silent. You have been given an hour lunch period when the legal requirement is only half an hour. In addition, your employer is paying you for the full hour lunch break, which also is not required.

You are making more money for the hour break than you would be making for the two 10-minute breaks in the morning and afternoon.