Employee Rights Attorney

Mission Viejo, California

Q: I am usually scheduled for an eight-hour shift – noon to 8:00 p.m. , for example. We are allowed a one-hour break during our shift that we must clock out for. Therefore, I am not receiving any break time on the clock. Is this legal? What are the laws on breaks? How many breaks should there be per shift?

A: There are around 15 “wage orders” that define when and how employers must give breaks to employees. The most common requirement provides for a 10-minute paid break for every four hours of employment.

An employer can’t substitute a block of time at the end of the day or avoid giving a break during a four-hour period. The breaks should be taken at the middle of the four-hour block of time. The purpose is to provide an adequate rest period for the employee. These rules do not apply to union members or to exempt workers.

If you complain about a violation of these policies, the employer is prohibited by law from retaliating by demoting or terminating you.

An employer is required to display a poster informing employees of these rules.

As a practical matter, there are several things that you can do to help solve the problem. Consider writing the employer a polite and discreet letter not particularly complaining about the violation, but informing the m of the law. You can send them a copy of this article addressing this situation either under your own name or anonymously. You could complain anonymously to the California Labor Commissioner, who would investigate.