Although most employees usually look forward to taking a lunch break and getting away from their job for a little while, there are also those who would rather work through their lunch and stay on the clock. This can sometimes be a problem for employers, however, who fear that by allowing an employee to do so, they are perhaps breaking the law.
While this may actually be the case in some states, it is not the case in California. Due to a ruling by the California Supreme Court back a few years ago, a nonexempt, hourly employee can actually choose to work through their lunch period and receive compensation.
Interestingly, there is kind of a caveat to this. Employees can choose to work through their lunch period and remain on the clock, but an employer does remains obligated to provide an employee with a 30 minute time period of relief from their duties. How employees chooses to use that 30 minutes of time is generally up to them.
If you choose to work through your lunch period, keep in mind that it is still important to tell your employer of your intentions, since they are only required to pay you if they know that you are working during your lunch period. This means that you should tell your employer and then also note it on your time card.
Despite the law, don't automatically assume that it is okay to take a lunch break without discussing it with your employer first. Your break may have initially been set up as a way to ensure that a work shift is covered, meaning that skipping your lunch could leave a gap between later shifts.
Individuals who are interested in learning more about California's wage and hour laws may find it beneficial to speak with an experienced employment law attorney.
Source: FindLaw, "Legally Required to Take a Lunch Break?," Stephanie Rabiner, June 02, 2015