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Are You Exempt from California’s Lunch Break Laws?

Under California state law employers are required to provide lunch or meal breaks to employees who work a minimum number of hours. However, some terms must be met, depending on the status of the employee. This article will discuss employees that are exempt from these California lunch and meal break laws.

Which employees are exempt?

In accordance with California state laws, all non-exempt employees are entitled to a meal break. Non-exempt employees include persons employed in professional, technical, clerical, mechanical, and similar occupations. This is irrespective of the fact that such employees are paid on a time, piece-rate, commission, or other bases.

That being said, it is important to note that some workers do not fall within the standard lunch break requirement of non-exempt employees. This includes exempt employees, independent contractors, and unionized employees in specific industries. Exempt employees fall outside the requirement of lunch break laws; such exempt employees include persons employed in the following capacities:

  • Administrative
  • Managerial
  • Executive or professional capacities

The essential requirement for an employee to be considered as exempt in California is that the employee:

  • Spends more than one-half of their work time performing intellectual, managerial or creative work
  • Generally and often exercises discretion and independent judgment when performing their work
  • Earns a monthly salary that is, at least, equivalent to twice the California minimum wage for full-time employment

According to California law, independent contractors are exempt from the application of lunch break laws. However, it is crucial to understand what an independent contractor is. According to the California Labor Code Section 3353, an independent contractor is defined as a “person who renders service for a specified recompense for a specified result, under the control of his principal as to the result of his work only and not as to the means by which such result is accomplished.” So the necessary test to determine an independent contractor is whether the principal has the right to direct and control the manner and means by which the work is performed. Where the principal does not control the manner and means by which the work is completed, this individual is an independent contractor. It is important to note whether or not you are an independent contractor or if you are an employee referred to as an independent contractor who is entitled to lunch breaks.

In some cases, certain unionized employees are exempt from the California Labor Law lunch break requirements. This includes unionized workers in specific industries that have a collective bargaining agreement in place that provides other lunch break requirements. In the state of California, such industries may include the following:

  • Motion picture industry
  • Broadcasting industry
  • Wholesale baking industry
  • Commercial drivers
  • Construction occupations
  • Security officers
  • Electrical, gas, or public utility companies

It is important to note that while an employer is required by law to ensure that an employee gets a lunch break, the employer is not required to pay you for your lunch break. For questions with regards to unpaid lunch break contact a law firm of renowned professionals specializing in employment law.

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