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Breaks and Retaliation

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

Severe Penalties for Employers Who Deny Rest Breaks


The San Francisco Building Trades "Organized Labor" Newsletter ran an "Ask the Expert" column featuring Kevin Osborne responding to worker questions regarding right to rest breaks and retaliation. The following is the text from that column.

Q: I just started a new project with an employer from down south. The first day on the job, the foreman said, “we don’t take breaks.” They have to give me breaks, don’t they? Also, I’m worried they’ll fire me if I complain. What should I do?

A: California law guarantees workers 10-minute paid rest breaks for every 4 hours of work. If an employer refuses to allow breaks, it is taking away what state lawmakers and your union fought for. The penalties for violating this law are severe. You and your co-workers may be entitled to 1 full hour of additional pay for every day the employer refuses to provide a break, plus a fine of $50-$100 per pay period, plus interest, plus attorneys’ fees … and so on. Similarly, the law in California provides serious penalties for employers who retaliate in any way against workers who call out illegal conduct, including paying any lost wages and even reinstating the worker’s employment and benefits. Don’t be afraid to contact a lawyer and enforce your rights.

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