When Can I Take A Rest Break?

In California, nonexempt employees are entitled to take one uninterrupted 10 minute paid rest break, also known as a rest period, for every 4 hour work period (or major fraction of four hours) in a workday.  Typically, anything over 2 hours is considered a major fraction of four hours.  However, an employer is not required to provide a rest period if the total hours worked in a workday is less than 3 and 1/2 hours. 

For example, a nonexempt employee who works 3 hours and 29 minutes in a workday would not be entitled to any rest breaks even though the employee worked a major fraction of 4 hours because the employee’s work period was less than 3 and 1/2 hours.  However a nonexempt employee who works from 3 and 1/2 hours up to 6 hours in a workday is entitled to one rest break.  An employee who works anywhere over 6 hours up to 10 hours in a workday would be entitled to 2 rest breaks, and so on.  Further, the rest break must be completely off-duty. 

Employers have a duty to make a good faith effort to permit rest breaks in the middle of each 4 hour work period but, where practical considerations make it infeasible, employers may deviate from that preferred time.  In other words, the practical realities are that employers have the discretion to determine when nonexempt employees may take rest breaks.  Understandably, employers need the discretion to determine when employees may take breaks to avoid harming business operations, while also taking into consideration employees’ welfare.  Finally, there is no requirement that employers permit rest breaks in a certain chronology before or after meal breaks, also known as meal periods or lunch breaks. 

(See Link(s): Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders)