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Dec16

breakroom law in california

We have a kitchen with sink, refrigerator and a table with 2 chairs. Can that be considering our break room? Is that certain law for break rooms in California? Are we required to have a bigger break room if we have more employees?

This depends on a few factors: Are employees allowed to leave during breaks?  Are any shifts or portions of shifts occurring between 10:00pm and 6:00am?
If you allow employees to leave, you are not required to provide a break room at all. If you force them to stay, you have to provide a break room that is “suitable for this purpose” according to California law.  This typically means that if you have a room designated for breaks, it would qualify.
If you have employees working anytime between 10:00pm and  6:00am, you have to have hot food and drinks available to employees (for free or available for purchase), unless you have resources to heat food or drinks (ie a microwave, which you did not mention having).
Certain industries are excluded from following certain break room requirements.  For more specific answers, please repost your question stating your industry and/or other relevant company information.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, December 16th, 2010 at 11:03 am and is filed under
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16 Responses to “breakroom law in california”

  1. Courtney Says:

    I work in a Hospital. Is it a California law that they must provide us with a breakroom within so many feet of where we work.

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Courtney! A California employer who requires that employees remain on the premises during meal breaks must provide a suitable break room with facilities for eating and heating food. However, there is no limit on how far from the work area that break room may be. For rest breaks (but not meal breaks) the requirement is for a net 10-minute break — meaning the time the employee spends walking to and from the break area is not counted in the break time. Different rules apply in some occupations. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  3. Shasta Says:

    Are California employers liable for employees that go off site for walks during their 10 minute breaks? Where would I find this information?

    Thank you.

  4. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Shasta! Yes, under the workers comp regulations, an employee who is on the clock or being paid is covered by workers compensation. If the employee is injured for any reason, or injures another person, the employer is liable. The federal FLSA requires that employees be paid for any break that is less than 20 minutes.
    It is very common practice and entirely legal for employers to not allow workers off the premises on a short rest break. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  5. Sabrina Says:

    I work in a surgery center, and although I am able to leave for my “lunch” period, we do not have a suitable break room. We do have employees staying over night, they have a small mini fridge and a small microwave in one of the patients rooms. SO this means if they have 4 patients they do not have access to the fridge or microwave and they are not allowed to leave once shift starts. They are Independent Contractors, however do they still have to provide an adequate break room? There is no table and chairs for them to “rest” in is this suitable also??

  6. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Sabrina! Check with the California DLSE, but it sounds like the employer is meeting the requirements for a break room for daytime employees. As long as the employees can leave the premises, no break room is required.

    If the night workers cannot leave the premises, they may be employees rather than independent contractors under state and federal law. In that case, the employer has misclassified the employees and has much bigger problems than not supplying the required break room. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  7. Helen Gardner Says:

    We are in the security field. Our employees are either standing guards or patrol guards. Are we required to furnish our employees a break room for their breaks. I am concerned that we need a break-room for our employees that do patrol where they have place to go for food and rest. Am I right?

  8. hrlady Says:

    Hi Helen,
    There is no federal law that requires private employers to provide break rooms. However, some states including California as mentioned above have adopted such laws. If you’re in California, break rooms are required if you prohibit your employees from leaving work premises. Now, an exception may apply if you have employees stationed off the premises. If this is the case you may want to contact a local employment lawyer to make certain you’re obeying the law. If you’re in another state, it’s important to check for applicable state regulations. Absent such regulations, providing a break room is at your discretion. Keep in mind, break rooms are a nice benefit to employees. So, if you have the ability to provide one, it may be worth it.

  9. Keith Says:

    Hi Caitlin,

    I am the manager at a banquet and conference center in Los Angeles. We employ many positions including housemen, maids, servers, kitchen employees, etc. While I realize we are required to give a break after 5 hours…are we also required to provide food? We are very generous in the amount of food we provide to the employees, but some have complained that at times there is not much left or that it is in our refrigerator and cold and not prepared. Is it our legal obligation to provide food to our employees or just the time and the facility to eat and prepare food. Thank you in advance! – Michael

  10. hrlady Says:

    Hi Keith,
    We’re so sorry for the delayed response! We were unable to locate any regulation in California requiring employers to provide employees with food during meal breaks, specifically in the hospitality industry. It’s very common for such facilities to provide food for staff simply for the convenience of it for both parties. California law is clear that if you require your employees to remain on site for their meal periods then the meal period must be paid and you must provide a suitable place for the employees to eat their meals.

  11. John H Says:

    I would like to know if I can use a break room for meetings or does it need to be a designated space? Also can we post work related material on the walls of the break room if it is designated space.

  12. hrlady Says:

    Hi John,
    Some states have specific break room laws. We’ll focus on California since that was the main post.
    In California, a designated break room is required if employees must remain on site during their breaks. There is no regulation specifically prohibiting the room from also being used for meetings but if such meetings occur during an employee’s break time then there may be a violation.
    Work related materials are permitted to be posted in break rooms. In fact, it’s often recommended to do so since some, such as employment law posters, are required to be displayed where employees regularly visit.

  13. Hector Says:

    Hi. If a break room is provided for employees, does it have to be a certain size? If so, what are the required dimensions for a break room? Can it vary on the size of the business’ building?

  14. hrlady Says:

    Hi Hector, Assuming you’re in California, in places of employment where employees are required to remain on the premises during meal periods a “suitable” place for consuming meals must be provided. Unfortunately, “suitable” is not defined. So, use your best judgment and be confident you can back up your thinking if a claim is ever filed. Also, California labor code states, “If a meal period occurs on a shift beginning or ending at or between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., facilities shall be available for securing hot food or drink or for heating food or drink; and a suitable sheltered place shall be provided in which to consume such food or drink.” HTH!

  15. Ralph gaxiola Says:

    Is it the law that an employer has to provide a refrigerator and microwave oven and a break room for their employees? Or not?

  16. hrlady Says:

    Hi Ralph,
    Sorry for the delayed response! There is no federal law that requires private employers to provide a break room to employees let alone a refrigerator and a microwave. As stated above, in California, in places of employment where employees are required to remain on the premises during meal periods a “suitable” place for consuming meals must be provided. Unfortunately, “suitable” is not defined so best judgment must be used. California labor code states, “If a meal period occurs on a shift beginning or ending at or between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., facilities shall be available for securing hot food or drink or for heating food or drink; and a suitable sheltered place shall be provided in which to consume such food or drink.”

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