In California, an employer may not employ an employee for a work period of more than five hours per day without providing the employee with a meal period of not less than thirty minutes, except that if the total work period per day of the employee is no more than six hours, the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of both the employer and employee.
A second meal period of not less than thirty minutes is required if an employee works more than ten hours per day, except that if the total hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and employee only if the first meal period was not waived. California Labor Code Section 512.
Unless the employee is relieved of all duty during his or her thirty minute meal period, the meal period is considered an "on duty" meal period that is counted as hours worked which must be compensated at the employee's regular rate of pay.
If an employer fails to provide an employee a meal period, the employer must pay one additional hour of pay at the employee's regular rate of pay for each workday that the meal period is not provided. This additional hour is not counted as hours worked for purposes of overtime calculations.