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Generally speaking, California law provides that an employer may not employ a worker for a period of more than five hours at a time without providing the worker with a meal period of not less than thirty minutes, except that if the total work period per day of the employee is no more than six hours, the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of both the employer and employee. (Labor Code Section 512.)
Furthermore, unless the employee is relieved of all duty during his or her lunch, the lunch is an "on duty" meal period that is counted as hours worked which must be compensated
at the employee's regular rate of pay. An "on duty" meal period is permitted only where the nature of the employee's work makes it impossible for them to be relieved of all duty and when the parties enter into a written agreement for an on-the-job paid meal period. The written agreement must state that the employee may, in writing, revoke the agreement at any time. IWC Orders 1 -15, Section 11, Order 16, Section 10.
California courts have also held that an employee's meal period must be paid if the employer requires the employee to remain at the work site or facility during the meal period. Bono Enterprises, In. v. Bradshaw (1995) 32 Cal.App.4th 968.
Failure to provide a meal period is a serious offense. To file a wage claim with the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement, visit this link: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/howtofilewageclaim.htm
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