For a lot of reasons, including safety concerns, employers in the Los Angeles area are smart to allow their employees to take a break from time to time, which includes having an adequate time to take lunch.
Unfortunately, many California employers choose to put other concerns over the well-being of their employees and therefore not give their workers the rest that they need in order to do their jobs effectively and safely.
Thankfully, California law gives employees the right to a 30-minute lunch if they work more than a five-hour shift. While this lunch need not be paid by the employer, the employer must not place restrictions on how the employee chooses to spend this time. He or she must be free to leave, and he or she must not be expected to do anything work-related while on lunch.
The rule about being free to leave is subject to some limitations. For example, relatively recently, a major fast food restaurant won a court victory. The court upheld the company's rule that employees who wanted to use their discount to get cheap food from the restaurant had to take their meal at the restaurant. All other employees were free to leave for lunch as the law required.
Other legal limitations on this rule may also apply to individual situations, and workers who have questions should discuss these with an attorney.
If an employer does not give an employee the lunch breaks to which he or she is entitled, the employee may be able to pursue monetary and other relief by filing the appropriate action in court for alleged wage and hour violations.