How-to-Passively-Insist-on-Your-Right-to-Meal-and-Rest-Breaks.jpg (2149×1159)The federal law requires that all employers provide reasonable rest and meal breaks. California has an even more refined definition of what those mandated meal and rest breaks should be. Specifically, you have a right to a 10-minute paid break for every 4 hours you work. For each 5 hours you work, you also have a right to a 30 minute unpaid meal break.

This means that a standard 8-hour shift would include two 10-minute paid breaks and one 30-minute meal break. A shift of 10 hours would include two paid breaks and two meal breaks. A shift of 12 hours would include three paid breaks and two meal breaks. You see how this works.

However, hundreds of workplaces tend to work straight through these breaks without acknowledging that they should exist. From office workers to delivery drivers, there may be an unspoken assumption that you would work through these times, up to even working through an unpaid lunch break. This is illegal, an breach of your employee rights, but also a company culture thing. If you don’t think anyone is actively trying to defy your rights, one of the best things you can do is simply start to take your breaks as they should be taken. And quietly encourage your coworkers to do the same.

Start Taking Your Ten Minute Paid Breaks

Paid ten-minute breaks are really as very small part of the workday. A normal 8-hour day includes 20 total minutes of paid time to relax. In some occupations, like retail, these breaks are essential for bathroom trips and personal care. In office jobs, it may seem less important. But no matter your industry, those ten minutes every four hours are yours, and your coworkers. If you do not defend them by quietly shifting the company culture, then someone who really needs those breaks may not get them, or you may miss them when you are in need. So start taking your breaks.

Somewhere within each four-hour block, take ten minutes to relax. Do a little meditating if you have no other task to take care of. And encourage your coworkers to grab their ten minutes whenever they need it most. 

Clock Your Lunch Break Accurately

Your lunch break is 30 unpaid minutes in which you do not have to do any work and are free to leave the premises. This freedom is essential so that employees can grab lunch, run an errand, and take care of personal matters in the middle of their day. If your lunch break is being whittled away or you’re expected to work through the break, start defending your time. Do not shorten your lunch break and don’t work through your break.

But do clock your break very accurately. Clock out when you leave your work tasks and clock back in exactly half an hour later. This is the most fair approach for both you and your employer. And encourage your coworkers to do the same, with the freedom to leave the building if they need to.

Take a Dinner Break If You Work 10+ Hours

If your shift is ten hours or longer, you have a legal right to take a second unpaid 30 minute meal break. In fact, you are legally required to. Take your dinner break and let any similarly long-shift coworkers know that they can do the same. Grab dinner, destress, maybe just read a book in your office if you don’t have other plans. Then clock in exactly 30 minutes later.

If Asked, Inform the Asker of California Law

If your boss catches you relaxing during your ten minutes or not working through lunch and asks what’s up, let them know that you are carefully following California law for rest and meal periods. Frame it as you being responsibly in-compliance rather than sounding accusatory or defensive. You are doing your duty as an employee to take the legally required breaks. You are protecting yourself and your company from non-compliance and so are any coworkers who join you in quietly taking your proper breaks.

If Pressured, Seek Legal Counsel

If your compliance answer is responded to with pressure to skip breaks or work through your breaks, then maybe that no-breaks company culture wasn’t just a coincidence after all. Underlying greed or unmanaged workplace stress often leads to employees being asked to give up the breaks they need to be healthy, happy, and focused. It’s also highly illegal and abusive to your employee rights.

In the event that a boss or supervisor does not accept your polite enforcement of your rest-break rights, it’s time to seek legal support and possibly put together a lawsuit with coworkers to defend your rights against abusive company policies.

Here at Aiman-Smith and Marcy, we are passionate about defending employee rights no matter the circumstances. Contact us today to find out more about maintaining your rights and the rights of your coworkers to legal rest breaks and meal break freedom.

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986