Thank you very much for your clarification.
Federal and state law require employers to pay employees for all time the employees are "suffered or permitted to work." An employee need not work with express permission in order to be entitled to pay. If they are working with the employers knowledge, as appears to be the case in your circumstance, they are entitled to be paid because they are working with implied permission.
Prior to the CA Supreme Court's recent ruling in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, an employer in this circumstance would not only be liable to pay hourly wages to employees who work through lunch, they also would have been penalized for not "providing" lunch. However, the Brinker decision made clear that an employer satisfies its obligation to "provide" a lunch simply by making lunch time available. The employer has no obligation to "ensure" the employee actually uses that time to eat lunch.
The Brinker decision noted, you seem not to be concerned with obtaining penalties for your employer's failure to provide a lunch and concerned primarily with simply being paid your hourly wage for that time. You would be entitled to that, and the Brinker decision does not affect you in this respect. Your employer cannot deduct from your paycheck for work you performed during your lunch provided such work was performed with the knowledge of the employer.
Your recourse in this circumstance would be either to sue in civil court for unpaid wages (you'd be entitled to attorney fees if you prevailed) or to file a wage claim with the DLSE, which most claimants pursue without the assistance of an attorney at all.
To file a wage claim with the DLSE, visit this link: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/howtofilewageclaim.htm
With regard to receiving benefits, your employer is under no obligation to provide them to you, even if they are providing benefits to other similarly situated employees, unless you can demonstrate a discriminatory basis for the denial. "Discrimination" occurs if the basis relates to your race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age (over 40), or sexual orientation. Unless you can connect the denial of benefits to one of these "protected traits" and do so by a preponderance of the evidence (the legal standard for a plaintiff to prevail in civil court), you would have no legal recourse on this issue.
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