Illegal to Combine Meal & Rest Breaks

Posted by Sessions & Kimball |

by Patrick E. Turner

Employee Rights Lawyer, Orange County

Q: I work in a medical office with a new administrator. We’ve always been allowed to take rest breaks with our lunch breaks due to what’s otherwise an unpredictable morning and afternoon. Now we’re told it is illegal.

A: “It would appear your new administrator is complying with the law and helping your employer avoid liability,” says employee rights attorney Patrick E. Turner, of Don D. Sessions Law Corp., Mission Viejo.

“Industrial Welfare Commission Order 4 2001 requires rest periods be provided for nonexempt employees who work at least three and one-half hours in a day. Mandatory rest periods must, ‘insofar as is practicable,’ be in the middle of each work period, and be a minimum of 10 consecutive minutes for every four hours worked. Although the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement grants employers some exemptions to this rule, a ‘busy shift’ will not qualify.

“According to the California Wage Orders, it is not permissible for an employer and an employee to enter an agreement which violates this requirement, nor is it permissible to ‘tack on’ rest periods to meal periods in an effort to circumvent rest period requirements.

“A new provision added to the IWC Order also requires an employer to pay its employee one additional hour of wages when a rest period is missed. Essentially, an employer may face additional wage obligations by failing to provide rest periods consistent with IWC wage orders.”

For more information, see the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement Web site (, which has wage orders that apply to specific occupations.