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Employee "Rest" Period Rules - An Overview Of California Labor Law

Posted by Leslie Ruhland on Mar 28, 2017 9:00:00 AM
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Are you in compliance with California laws for rest breaks? Here's an overview of what you need to know to comply with the "rest" period rules.


[This guest post was provided by Douglas J. Farmer, Attorney, Ogletree Deakins, P.C., San Francisco. He can be contacted at]

Employee "Rest" Period Rules - An Overview of the Basics

California rest break violations, like meal period claims, are one of the most common lawsuits filed in the California court system today. Like meal break violations, rest break violations are costing California employers millions of dollars each year.

California employers can protect themselves against these risks by checking their rest break policies and practices against the legal compliance checklists below. If you don’t have a legally compliant policy in place, see the section below entitled “additional resources” for information on how to develop one.

Checklist for Initial Rest Break

  • Employers must provide an initial paid rest period to employees whose daily work time is at least three and a half (3.5) hours;
  • There are no exceptions for small businesses;
  • Once the employee has worked three and a half (3.5) hours the employer must authorize an initial rest period of ten (10) minutes;
  • Rest breaks must be “duty free,” such that the employee is free to leave the premises. Employers may not place employees “on-call” or issue pagers, cell phones or radios during rest breaks;
  • Each ten-minute rest period must be a “net” ten minutes (meaning you cannot require the employee to walk for five (5) minutes to the break room as part of the ten (10) minute rest break);
  • Employers may not require employees to work during rest periods, or discourage employees from taking rest periods;
  • Rest periods are paid, and must be counted toward the calculation of overtime;
  • Rest periods (unlike meal periods) need not be recorded in the employer’s timekeeping System.

Checklist for Subsequent Rest Breaks

  • Thereafter the employer must authorize and permit additional rest periods at the rate of ten (10) minutes rest time for every four (4) hours worked, or “major fraction” thereof;
  • A “major fraction” of four (4) hours means more than two (2) hours – so once an employee works more than six (6) hours, employers must provide a second ten (10) minute rest break. The following chart illustrates the rule:


  • Rest periods must take place in the middle of each work period (e.g., one in the middle of the first four hours of the employee’s shift and a second in the middle of the second four hour part of the shift), if it is possible and practical to do so;
  • The rules (above) for initial rest breaks also apply to subsequent rest breaks;

Checklist for Payment of "Wage Premium" for Failure to Provide Rest Break

  • Employers not providing rest period(s) as required by the Wage Orders must pay the employee one (1) hour of compensation at the employees regular rate of pay for each workday that the rest period is not provided;
  • Employers must provide suitable resting facilities (other than bathroom facilities) for employees to take rest periods, which must be available to employees during work hours.

Additional Resources

For additional information on California rest period requirements, see, D. Farmer, California Employment Law: The Complete Survival Guide to Doing Business in California, available for purchase at Or email the author for a free rest break policy template.


Human Resources Best Practices and California Labor Law

As a business owner, or HR manager, you are responsible for HR compliance and knowing California labor law where it applies to your business. Fortunately,you have a number of options for your HR functions. There is software that can be installed in-house, or cloud-based programs offer a good alternative.

But if you really want to take full advantage of the benefits available to you, outsourcing to a provider like Accuchex can still be the best decision.

If you are currently looking to invest in outsourcing, take a look at our free resource, the HR On-Demand Tour to help you make an informed decision.

Or call Accuchex Payroll Management Services at 877-422-2824.

In addition, you can find helpful guidance with our California Labor Laws: Breaks, Employees, And The Rules guide by clicking this button:

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Topics: HR compliance, california labor law, labor law compliance, meal and rest breaks, california break laws, rest breaks

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