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Assuming that your wife is an employee and not an independent contractor, her employer may be liable for what is known in California as "reporting time pay" on days where she is sent home without work.
More specifically, California's IWC Wage Orders provide that each workday an employee is required to report to work but is not put to work or is furnished with less than half of his or her usual or scheduled day's work, the employer must pay half of the employee's usual or scheduled day's work, but in no event for less than two hours nor more than four hours, at his or her regular rate of pay.
For example, if an employer sends home an employee who was scheduled to work an 8 hour shift after just one hour, the employee would be entitled to 4 hours of pay.
Only employees who are not exempt from overtime requirements are eligible for reporting time pay.
For a more full explanation of the reporting pay requirements and exceptions, this visit link: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/faq_reportingtimepay.htm
In regard to lunches and rest breaks, 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.)
So, if your wife's shifts are only five hours, she would not be entitled to a lunch, but a shift any longer than that she would be entitled to one.
In regard to rest breaks, which are different than meal periods, California law requires employers to "authorize and permit" nonexempt employees to take a PAID rest period that should, to the extent practicable, be taken in the middle of the employee's shift. An employee is entitled to take a rest period of no less than 10 minutes for each 4 hour period of work, or major fraction thereof. So, provided your wife's shift is at least 4 hours and she is an employee, she would be entitled to a paid 10 minute rest break.
If your wife's employer refuses to provide her with reporting time, meal periods and/or rest breaks, it would generally be wise to file a claim with the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement. To file a claim with the DLSE, visit this link: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/howtofilewageclaim.htm
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