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California Farmworkers Meal Breaks Rest Break, & Recovery Period Law

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California law protects farmworkers

California has strict laws for meal breaks, rest breaks and recovery periods. You are entitled to an hour's pay for every missed meal break, rest break and/or recovery period (also called "cool down periods).under California law. 

And, what you may no realize is that under California law, you can get a rest break, meal break and/or recovery period and you may still be owed an hour's pay if the employer did not follow the law on how it was provided and/or when it was provided. 

You may be owed A LOT of money for meal breaks, rest breaks and/or recovery periods/ cool down periods if you work on a farm in California

Further, under California wage laws, the penalties for employers not paying you your wages (for example an hour's pay for not getting a legal rest break, meal break and/or recovery period), are usually MUCH more than the wages that you're owed for not getting legal rest breaks, meal breaks and/or recovery periods. 

For example, if the company doesn't provide you with a rest break, meal break and/or recovery period you are also owed for paycheck stub violations ($50 for the first week it happens and $100 for every other week - up to $4,000). You are also owed waiting time penalties. For most farmworkers this is $3,000. In addition, you can also recover PAGA penalties. 

For most farmworkers, you will be owed thousands and thousands of dollars in unpaid wages and penalties for missed rest breaks, meal breaks and/or recovery periods. And, as I explain in this article, you can still actually get rest breaks, meal breaks and/or recovery periods and if the timing of them isn't right or the employer doesn't provide you with all of your rights (PLEASE see below where we explain these rights); then you're still owed an hour's pay for every time they aren't provided legally. 

In this article I cover the following topics and more: 

What is the law for meal breaks and rest periods in California for farmworkers?

What are my rights for rest breaks as a California farmworker? 

The timing of rest breaks - How often am I supposed to get a rest break? 

If I don't get a legal rest break, am I owed an hour's pay for every rest break?

Examples of how and when you're owed an hour's pay for rest breaks

Am I owed money if I don't get a rest break?

You must get paid rest breaks if you are a piece rate worker

Your employer must include the money for your paid rest breaks on your pay stubs 
 
You get an hour’s pay for every missed rest break

In order for a farmworker to get a legal rest break under California law, you must be provided access to shade
 
What are my rights to meal breaks as a farmworker in California? 

What are the farm company's duties to provide meal breaks/ lunch breaks?

The farm company must record meal breaks

You get an hour’s pay for every meal break that isn’t provided to you

What are the farm company's duties to provide me recovery periods/ cool down periods?

When the temperature is 95 degrees or above - the farm company/ farm labor contractor must stop work an make sure you take a rest in the shade - if not - you're owed an hour's pay

You can't be required to work during a recovery period, rest period and/or meal period

You can’t waive what you didn’t get

 

What is the law for meal breaks and rest periods in California for farmworkers?

The law for California rest breaks and meal breaks is based upon the California Wage Order for your industry and/or occupation.  First, you need to determine which Wage Order applies to you. 

Wage Order 14 - farmworkers, field workers and orchard workers. 

The California Wage Order for farmworkers, field workers and orchard workers is Wage Order 14. California Wage Order 14 Section 2(H). This Wage Order applies to you if you work in the fields picking fruit or vegetables or working with fruits, nuts, vegetables.  
 
“Employed in an agricultural occupation” means any of the following described occupations:  
 
(1) The preparation, care, and treatment of farm land, pipeline, or ditches, including leveling for agricultural purposes, plowing, discing, and fertilizing the soil;  

(2) The sowing and planting of any agricultural or horticultural commodity;  

 
(3) The care of any agricultural or horticultural commodity; as used in this subdivision, “care” includes but is not limited to, cultivation, irrigation, weed control, thinning, heating, pruning, or tying, fumigating, spraying, and dusting;  
 
(4) The harvesting of any agricultural or horticultural commodity, including but not limited to, picking, cutting, threshing, mowing, knocking off, field chopping, bunching, baling, balling, field packing, and placing in field containers or in the vehicle in which the commodity will be hauled, and transportation on the farm or to a place of first processing or distribution;  
 
(5) The assembly and storage of any agricultural or horticultural commodity, including but not limited to, loading, road siding, banking, stacking, binding, and piling;  
 
(6) The raising, feeding and management of livestock, fur bearing animals, poultry, fish, mollusks, and insects, including but not limited to herding, housing, hatching, milking, shearing, handling eggs, and extracting honey;  
 
(7) The harvesting of fish, as defined by Section 45 of the Fish and Game Code, for commercial sale;  
 
(8) The conservation, improvement or maintenance of such farm and its tools and equipment.
 

Wage Order 13 - Industries Preparing Agricultural Products for Market, on the Farm

"Industries Preparing Agricultural Products for Market, on the Farm" means any operation performed in a permanently fixed structure or establishment on the farm or on a moving packing plant on the farm for the purpose of preparing agricultural, horticultural, egg, poultry, meat, seafood, rabbit, or dairy products for market when such operations are done on the premises owned or operated by the same employer who produced the products referred to herein and includes all operations incidental thereto. California Wage Order 13 Section 2(H). 

Wage Order 8 - Industries Handling Products After Harvest

The Wage Order for workers that work in industries handling after products are harvested is Wage Order 8.  "Industries Handling Products After Harvest" means any industry, business, or establishment operated for the purpose of grading, sorting, cleaning, drying, cooling, icing, packing, dehydrating, cracking, shelling, candling, separating, slaughtering, picking, plucking, shucking, pasteurizing, fermenting, ripening, molding, or otherwise preparing any agricultural, horticultural, egg, poultry, meat, seafood, rabbit, or dairy product for distribution, and includes all the operations incidental thereto.
 
If you're not sure which Wage Order applies to you, you can contact us and we'll help you (and not charge you for it). 
 
The employer's duty to provide meal breaks and rest breaks is different for each industry. This article is focused on rest breaks and meal breaks for California farmworkers, field workers and orchard workers - Wage Order 14. 
 
In this article, when I use the term "farmworker, I am also referring to field workers, orchard workers. 
 
That is, the people that work in  the fields and orchards preparing crops, fruits, vegetables and nuts for harvest.  This includes pickers and packers - if you do this in the field. 

 

Why is Bill Turley asked to testify concerning wage law legislation at the California State Senate and the California Assembly?

Bill Turley on farmworker's rights to rest breaks, recovery periods and meal breaks

Because Bill is a No B.S. straight-shooter lawyer

Believe it or not, Bill is known for being a no B.S. straight-up lawyer. Besides being known as one of the leading experts on this area of the law in California, one of the reasons why Bill is asked to testify at legislature hearings is because he is known for being straight-forward and blunt. He is known for being no B.S., with no lawyer-talk, no double-talk.

What are my rights for rest breaks as a California farmworker? 

Under California law, you are entitled to 10 minute, duty free rest breaks.  

Since you work outside, you are entitled to rest breaks in the shade.  

You are entitled to rest for 10 minutes.  Part of your 10 minutes rest break can't be walking to and from the shade. You get 10 minutes to rest in the shade. Resting in the shade means, you and all of the workers have room to sit in the shade.  The shade can be a tree or a man-made structure.  

The timing of rest breaks - How often am I supposed to get a rest break? 

The employer (the farm company and/or the farm labor contractor) must provide you a  rest break as follows:
  •  3.5  hours    1st rest break
  •    6   hours    2nd rest break
  •  10   hours    3rd rest break
  •  12   hours    4th rest break

If I don't get a legal rest break, am I owed an hour's pay for every rest break?

Yes.

Under California law, if you don't get a legal rest break (all of the rights described above) - then you are owed an hour's pay for every rest break. California Labor Code Section 226.7.

The main two cases that establish your rights to rest breaks are the Brinker and Augustus California Supreme Court cases. Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal. 4th 1004, 1033 (2012); Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., 2 Cal. 5th 257, 265, (2016).

 
I know these cares very well. I represented the workers in the Brinker California Supreme Court case. And I wrote the winning briefs in the Augustus California Supreme Court case. 
 

Examples of how and when you're owed an hour's pay for rest breaks

If you work 10 hours and you only get 2 rest breaks, you are owed an hour's pay for every day that you don't get the third rest break.

If you are given 10 minutes for your rest break, but you have to spend part of the 10 minutes walking to where the shade is, then you are owed an hour's pay for every time this happens. 

If you are given a 10 minutes from your rest break, but there is not enough room under the shade for all the workers in the field where you work, then you are owed a hour's pay for very time this happens. 

 

Am I owed money if I don't get a rest break?

 
Yes. If you do not receive a legally compliant rest break you are entitled to an hour’s pay at your regular rate of pay. So, if you earn $11 an hour, you're owed $11 for every time that you don't get a rest break. This will really add up. 
 
In addition, you are owed for pay check stub violations (up to $4,000) and waiting time penalties. 

 

You must get paid rest breaks if you are a piece rate worker

California law requires piece-rate employees be separately compensated for rest-break periods at an amount not less than the minimum wage. Cal. Lab. Code Section 226.2; Gonzalez v. Downtown LA Motors, LP, 215 Cal. App. 4th 36, 44-45 (2013); Bluford v. Safeway Stores, Inc., 216 Cal. App. 4th 864, 872, 157 Cal. Rptr. 3d 212 (2013).
 
Under 226.2 you must be compensated for rest breaks at the higher of your regular rate of pay or the minimum wage. California Labor Code Section 226.2(a)(3)(A).
 
"Compliance [with this requirement] cannot be determined by averaging hourly compensation." Bluford v. Safeway Stores, Inc., 216 Cal. App. 4th 864, 872, 157 Cal. Rptr. 3d 212 (2013). Rather, "employees [must] be compensated at the minimum wage for each hour worked." Gonzalez v. Downtown LA Motors, LP, 215 Cal. App. 4th 36, 44-45 (2013) (citing Armenta v. Osmose, Inc., 135 Cal. App. 4th 314, 323 (2005)).
 
California Labor Code Section 226.2 requires employers to pay separately for rest breaks for piece rate workers.
 
I know California Labor Code Section 226.2 very well because I testified before the California State Senate on California Labor Code Section 226.2.
 

Your employer must include the money for your paid rest breaks on your pay stubs 

 
Under California law, your employer MUST give you an itemized pay stub each week. In this article I explain what has to be on your pay stub under California law. 
 
If you're a piece rate worker, your pay stub must include the money paid to you every day for your rest breaks. California Labor Code Section 226.2.
 
If your employer doesn't include your paid rest breaks on your pay stubs it is a violation of California Labor Code Section 226. You may be entitled to up to $4,000 of this violation. 


You get an hour’s pay for every missed rest break

Suppose that you work 10 hours a day and the company doesn’t pay you for 2 minutes a day.  This means that you worked 10 hours and 2 minutes. Under California law, you are entitled to 3 paid rest breaks when you work 10 hours. California Wage Order 14 Section 12.
 
Most companies only give you 2 rest breaks.
 
Thus, you are owed one hour’s pay each day for not getting the third rest break. California Labor Code Section 226.7(c).
 

In order for a farmworker to get a legal rest break under California law, you must be provided access to shade

The rest break must be  “in accordance with a state law, including, but not limited to, an applicable statute or applicable regulation, standard, or order of the Industrial Welfare Commission, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, or the Division of Occupational Safety and Health...” California Labor Code Section 226.7(c).
 
In addition, California law requires farmworkers to have access to shade at all times. California Code of regulations Title 8 Section 3395. This includes rest breaks. 3395(d)(3). Thus, if you don’t have access to shade during your rest break, this is a violation of California rest break laws.
 
Part of your 10 minute break can’t be spent walking to and from the shade. Thus, if you are given a 10 minute break, then it must be 10 minutes at the shade. Otherwise, you are owed an hour’s pay for not getting a legal rest break under California law. California Labor Code Section 226.7.
 
The employer can’t argue that you didn’t try to use shade or ask for shade during your rest break.  If the shade isn’t provided, then you can’t waive what you didn’t get.
 

What are my rights to meal breaks as a farmworker in California? 

Under California law, you are entitled to a 30 minute, duty free, uninterrupted meal period. You have to be able to leave the field or orchard if you want to. 
 
Under California law, you're entitled to a first meal period before the 5th hour and a second meal period at the 10th hour. 

What are the farm company's duties to provide meal breaks/ lunch breaks?

A farm company's duty with respect to meal break is an obligation to provide a meal period to its employees. The employer satisfies this obligation if the company:
 
1.  Relieves you of all duty,
2.  Relinquishes control over you activities and
3.  Permits you a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break, and
4.  Your employer does not impede or discourage you from doing so.
Brinker vs. Superior Court  (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004, 1040.

 
This is based upon the ground-breaking California Supreme Court case - Brinker vs. Superior Court. I know the Brinker case very well, because I represented the workers in the Brinker case. I use the Brinker case all of the time in order to win workers wages in unpaid wages class action case

The farm company must record meal breaks

Farm companies must record when you take a meal break/ lunch break each day.
 
Since employers have a duty to record their employees' meal periods, “if an employer's records show no meal period for a given shift over five hours, a rebuttable presumption arises that the employee was not relieved of duty and no meal period was provided.” Brinker vs. Superior Court, 53 Cal.4th 1004, 1053 (2012) (conc. opn. of Werdegar, J.); see Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11050, subd. 7(A)(3); ABM Industries Overtime Cases, 19 Cal. App. 5th 277, 311, 227 (2017).
 
Under such circumstances, a court may award damages, even if they are only approximate and based on statistical sampling. Bell v. Farmers Ins. Exchange, 115 Cal.App. 715, 746–751 (2008); ABM Industries Overtime Cases, 19 Cal. App. 5th 277, 311, 227 (2017).
 
In other words, when the company doesn’t record your lunch breaks/ meal breaks, the law assumes you didn’t get a meal break/ lunch break.
 
When this happens, you’re entitled to an hour’s pay every day.
 

You get an hour’s pay for every meal break that isn’t provided to you

Under California law, you’re entitled to an hour’s pay for every meal period that isn’t provided to you. California Labor Code Section 226.7. This is from the Brinker Supreme Court case. I represented the workers in the Brinker case. 
 
Most companies give you 30 minutes break each day.  If part of your 30 minutes is walking across the field to your car, then you didn’t get a legal meal break under California law.

What are the farm company's duties to provide me recovery periods/ cool down periods?

Under California law,  farmworkers have the right to recovery periods and cool down periods. These rights include the following: 
 
1.  Whenever you work outside you have the right to shade. You employer must provide you shade. The shade can be a tree or man-made shade. 
 
2.   When temperatures reach 95 degrees or above, the employer must ensure that you take a minimum 10 minute net preventative cool-down rest period every two hours.
Section 3395. 
 
This means that when the temperature is 95 degrees or more, every two hours all work must stop and you must rest 10 minutes in the shade. 
 
Section 3395 requires that employees “shall be allowed and encouraged to take a cooldown rest in the shade for a period of no less than five minutes at a time when they feel the need to do so to protect themselves from overheating. Such access to shade shall be permitted at all times.”
 

When the temperature is 95 degrees or above - the farm company/ farm labor contractor must stop work an make sure you take a rest in the shade - if not - you're owed an hour's pay

If the employer does not stop work and make sure that you rest for 10 minutes - when it's over 95 degrees - then you're owed an hour's pay.

You can't be required to work during a recovery period, rest period and/or meal period

You can't be required to work during a recovery period. This means that your boss can't talk to you or give you instructions while you are cooling down. 

You can’t waive what you didn’t get

Under California law, you can’t waive what was never authorized.  This was addressed in the Brinker case:
 
No issue of waiver ever arises for a rest break that was required by law but never authorized; if a break is not authorized, an employee has no opportunity to decline to take it. As [the workers] pleaded and presented substantial evidence of a uniform rest break policy authorizing breaks only for each full four hours worked, the trial court's certification of a rest break subclass should not have been disturbed.
Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal. 4th 1004, 1033 (2012).
 
It’s the same for rest breaks and recovery periods under Section 3395.
 
You have no opportunity to decline taking a cool-down rest period that was never authorized by your employer. This means that if your employer doesn't tell you that you can take breaks in the shade, take recovery periods, rest periods or meal periods - then you get an hour's pay for every one that was missed. 
 

Questions or if you need help right now?

Call us at 619-304-1000  - If you call after regular business hours, when you leave a message, be sure to repeat your name and telephone number twice, so we get it correctly. And be sure to indicate whether it's okay if we respond by text.
 
Text us at 858-281-8008 - Be sure and put "new wage case" in your text.
 
Or leave us a message on this webpage.
  
 

 
This article isn't legal advice
 
These discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. These testimonials, endorsements, photos and/or discussions do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation. Every case is different. There are any number of reasons why class actions are not certified, not won and/or PAGA actions are not successful.
 
Just because we have gotten great results in so many other unpaid wage cases, doesn't guarantee in particular result in other cases. Including, your wage case. Every case is different. 
William Turley
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“When I seek out professional advice, I don’t want B.S., I want it straight up. I figure you do also.”
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