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California Lunch Break Law For Truck Drivers & Delivery Drivers

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California Lunch Break Law

In this article, I answer these questions and/or address the following issues:

Meal Periods In California For Truck Drivers, Delivery Drivers

Meal and Rest Breaks for drivers - duty free, means duty free

An Hour’s Pay For Every Violation

You're also entitled to your wages when you don't get a meal break

Employers duty to record meal periods (another great holding in the Brinker case)

Meal Periods In California For Truck Drivers, Delivery Drivers 

Under California wage and hour law, your employer must provide you a meal period of at least 30 minutes if you work for a period more than five hours in a day.  And your employer must provide you a second meal period when you work more than ten hours in a day.  The key here is that your employer must actually relieve you of all duties. Based upon what we see, this is where California truck companies and delivery companies don’t satisfy their duty to workers.

The California Supreme Court directly addressed this in the landmark case - Brinker v. Superior Court. I know the Brinker case real well, because I represented the workers in the Brinker case.   The Brinker Court held that your employer may not undermine a formal policy of providing meal breaks by pressuring employees to perform their duties in ways that omit breaks.

The Brinker Court held that California wage orders and governing statute do not allow your employer to exert coercion against the taking of, creating incentives to forego, or otherwise encouraging the skipping of legally protected breaks.

In order to satisfy it’s duty to provide you a meal period, your employer must do the following:

    1.     Relieve you of all duties.
    2.     Relinquish control over all of your activities.
    3.     Permit you a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute meal break.
    4.     Not impede or discourage you from taking a meal period.
    5.     No provide you an incentive to forego a meal period.

What you are going to find is that many, many California employers simply do not meet this standard.  We have found this in almost all industries in California, but especially in the truck driver and delivery driver industry.  Time and again we have found California employers not meeting these standards to drivers in California.

Meal and Rest Breaks for drivers - duty free, means duty free 

The California Supreme Court in the landmark 2012 case - Brinker vs. Superior Court held that workers must be relieved of all duties for meal breaks and rest breaks. 

Many employers didn’t seem to believe it, and in 2016 the California Supreme Court held in the Augustus case that rest breaks also had to be duty free.

Me and my firm represented the workers in the Brinker case and when I wrote the Supreme Court amicus brief in the Augustus case I pointed out that the court had previously ruled in the Brinker case that meal breaks and rest breaks had to be duty free.  Which is exactly what the Supreme Court said in the first page of the Augustus decision.

Duty free means duty free.  Not a “few duties.”  But no duties. For example, employers can’t require employees to be “on-call” during meal and rest breaks.  For example, employees can’t be required to answer phone calls during meal breaks and rest breaks.

Having to answer the phone is a duty. And meal breaks and rest breaks must be duty free.

Employers can't suggest that you watch the truck and/or load during your meal breaks and rest breaks. 

The employer is required to provide duty free rest breaks.  Employees must be free to leave the work site during meal breaks and rest breaks. That is the employee must be free to take a brief walk - five minutes out, five minutes back for rest breaks - or 15 minutes our and 15 minutes meal breaks. This is the same for truck and delivery drivers. 

Bill Turley testifying before the California senate regarding California wage laws

Bill Turley is known as a straight - shooter ... this is why Bill is regularly invited to testify on California wage law before the

California State Senate and California Assembly 

An Hour’s Pay For Every Violation

Under California law you are entitled to an hours pay every time your employer fails to meet their duty to provide you a meal period.  These are called damages under the law. These damages (read: money) can really add up.  

Here is a quick example, say you worked 260 days and you were not provided your first meal period and you earned $18 an hour.

    260 x $18 = $4,680

In addition, if your employer automatically deducts a half hours pay from you each day (called “auto-deduct”); then you are entitled to get that half’s hour pay and if you work over 8 hours that day, you are entitled to getting time and one half. 

This is just for one year for one single type of violation.  In most cases we are talking four to five years or more. In addition, drivers are commonly entitled to an hours pay for rest period violations, waiting time penalties, auto-deduct wages, etc.  So be sure to check out these other sections.


You're also entitled to your wages when you don't get a meal break 

Many companies will either auto-deduct the half hour's wages for meal breaks or will make you record your meal break and then deduct the half hour of wages. If you didn't get your legal meal break (see above); then you are also owed the half hour's of wages back. 

This call really add up over the course of a few months. 

Employers duty to record meal periods (another great holding in the Brinker case)

Most of the California Wage Orders require employers to record meal periods. Wage Order No. 9-2001 is the California Wage Order to Transportation workers. This includes drivers.
Wage Order 9-2001 states
7.  (A)     Every employer shall keep accurate information with respect to each employee including the following:
          (3)  Time records showing when the employee begins and ends each work period. Meal periods, split shift intervals and total daily hours worked shall  also be recorded. Meal periods during which operations cease and authorized rest periods need not be recorded.
This is what the law calls an affirmative obligation. Meaning, that the employer has the duty to record meal periods. Cicairos v. Summit Logistics, Inc. 133 Cal.App.4th 949, 963 (2005) and Lubin v. The Wackenhut Corp., 5 Cal. App. 5th 926, 951 (2016).
The concurring opinion by Justice Werdegar in Brinker states, “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 at 1053.
Which is huge. If your employer does not record your meal periods than the law assumes that you didn’t get a meal period. The logic here is that since your employer didn’t meet their duty to record meal periods, then the law will assume that you didn’t get a meal period.
The gift of Justice Werdegar’s landmark opinion in the Brinker case is the gift that keeps on giving. If you haven’t already figured it out, I take great pride in our work representing the workers in the Brinker case. Every worker in California benefited from the Brinker case. 
Happy clients with their settlement checks from a California unpaid wages case.
Clients that are happy they got their check in a California Wage Case

My best advice is to research your rights as a delivery driver. I recommend you read my free book, California Truck and Delivery Driver Wage Theft: The Ultimate Straight Talk Guide To Getting Your Hard Earned Wages Back. It is full of useful information to help you earn your money back. You can buy it on Amazon, but we will send you a free copy and cover shipping.


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Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation.

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.”
Supra national express required truck driver to sign agreement to waive meal period .every working. why every day ?
Posted by tsung-yen tu on August 21, 2019 at 12:30 AM
I'm truck driver in Colorado. Can my employer tell me when I have to take my 30 minute lunch break.
Posted by Edgar Zamora on April 3, 2019 at 05:14 PM
My employer just made it mandatory for us to log off for a second 30 minute break, before we complete hour 10th hour.. Most of us work 12 hours per shift.. This now cuts our pay this 30 minute period, if we clocked out at the 12 hour mark as usual.. They are claiming it's CA state law.. I read the CA statement, and it says "if we work over 10 ours, we are entitled to another 30 minute break, and this break should be taken by the end of the 10th hour. It doesn't say it is mandatory. None of us want this forced on us.. In order for us to continue to make the same pay, we will now need to be at work for 12 and a half hours.. If we don't stay for this extra 30 minutes, it will cost most of us. $12.75 per shift, $63.75 per week, $276 per month, and $3300. Per year. What can we do?
Posted by William Kennedy on March 9, 2016 at 12:07 AM
can an employer force an employee to take an hour lunch here in the state of CA?
Posted by jimmy on September 15, 2015 at 04:03 PM
Question - if the driver works over 6 hours in a day but less than 8 is he required to take a 30 min meal break. If he does not take a meal break but our time sheet indicates "1/2 hour lunches will be deducted from the total daily hours unless the client initials that no lunch was taken." do we have the right to deduct this meal time if there is not client initial?
Posted by Tina Jacobson on October 7, 2014 at 03:35 PM
How can an employer give you this time to take a lunch if you are on a log for 10 - 14 hours, does that not mean that your are still on duty as you are still on the log duty time time? relieving us of all duty would be allowing us to be able to go/do anything we want during that time would it not? Not be forced to be available to leave at a moments time during that off duty time.
Posted by John on May 4, 2014 at 12:36 AM

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