California has some of the most employee-friendly employment laws in the country. Many states do not regulate or mandate breaks of any kind for adult workers, but if you work in this state, you do have mandatory break requirements.
According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, your employer may have to give you a 30-minute meal break during your work period.
Not every situation will require a meal break. You must work at least five hours to get one. If you work up to six hours, you can wave your meal break, but you must agree to this. Your employer cannot make the decision alone to not give you a break.
If you work at least 10 hours, you must get another break because one 30-minute break is mandatory for every five hours you work. However, if you work up to 12 hours, you may also waive this meal break, but only if you took your first break. You cannot waive both breaks.
If you work in the motion picture industry, the rules are a little different. Instead of the five-hour requirement, you will follow a six-hour requirement and secure a 30-minute break after six hours of work. The second meal break kicks in at 12 hours.
When you are on your break, your employer cannot make you do any type of work. You must be completely free of your duties or your employer must pay you for the break. If you do no work during the break, then your employer does not have to pay you for it. However, if your employer requires you to remain on-site during the break, then it does have to pay you regardless of duties.
In most cases, you need to be completely free of work duties. If you will have to work, there must be a signed agreement between you and your employer stating this, and the law only allows it if your job is such that you cannot be completely off duty during a break.