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May 10, 2010
California Pay Requirements for Break Periods Differ From Federal Requirements

State and federal requirements for break periods vary, Laura P. Worsinger, Esq., explained in a BLR webinar titled "Reducing Overtime Costs: What You Legally Can—and Can't—Do to Keep Workers at Their Straight-Time Rates."

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Rest Periods

In California, for example, compensated rest periods are required for non-exempt employees who work at least 3½ hours per day—a net 10 minutes for every four hours worked. Other California requirements include:

  • The employer must treat rest periods as "hours worked" and must pay employees during their breaks.
  • Because employees receive compensation for rest periods, they can be required to stay on the employer's premises during their rest breaks.
  • Employees must be off duty during rest breaks.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), rest periods are not required. However, if rest periods are provided, they must be paid.

Meal Periods

California state law prohibits non-exempt employees from working more than five hours without a meal period of 30 minutes or longer, except in certain limited circumstances.

Meal periods are not required under the FLSA. However, if an unpaid meal period is provided, it is illegal to make the employee work during that time.

Laura P. Worsinger, Esq. is Of Counsel with the Los Angeles office of Dykema Gossett PLLC. She has broad counseling and litigation experience and specializes in the defense of employers in individual and class actions involving wage and hour violations, misclassification, discrimination, wrongful termination, and other employment-related proceedings. She can be contacted at

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