There is currently no federal law which requires employers to give rest or meal breaks to their employees during the work day. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is the federal wage and hour law, does not require employers to provide meal or rest breaks. In this context, some states have stepped in and implemented laws which require such breaks while others have not. However, based on common practice, many employers provide their employees with a rest or lunch break, whether paid or unpaid.
Currently, fewer than half the states require employers to give a meal break. In states where meal breaks are required, employees are given a half hour meal break after working more than five or six hours at a time. If you have to work while eating, then you have the right to be paid for that time. but if you are completely relieved of work duties during your meal break then you are not entitled to be paid for this time. In most of the states where employers give rest breaks, employees can take a ten-minute paid rest break for every four hours worked.
However, different rules apply to workers who are minors. For example, in the state of Delaware, employers are required to provide minors with a thirty-minute meal break after they worked five hours. Adult workers receive a thirty-minute break after working at least seven and a half hours. Additionally, in some states, there are special break rules for all minors. Other states have special break rules only for those who are 15 years old or younger.
In order for a period of time to qualify for a rest break, the employees must be fully relieved of their duties. Here are some states which require employers to give rest breaks:
- California – State law mandates a 10 minute break for every four hours if the work day is at least five hours long.
- Colorado – State law mandates a 10 minute break for every four hours.
- Kentucky – State law mandates a 10 minute break for every four hours.
- Minnesota – State law requires employers to provide a “reasonable” amount of time in a four-hour period “to use the restroom.”
- Nevada – State law mandates a 10 minute break every four hours.
- Oregon – State law mandates a 10 minute break every four hours.
- Vermont – State law mandates “reasonable opportunities” during work periods to use the restroom.
- Washington – State law mandates a 10 minute break every four hours.
Also, more than 20 states have laws which require employers to provide meal breaks to employees during the work day. In California, an employer cannot employ a worker for a work period of more than five hours per day without providing a thirty-minute meal break. However, if the total work period does not exceed six hours, then the meal period can be waived by mutual consent of both the employer and the employee. The employer is also required to provide a second meal period of not less than thirty minutes if an employee works more than ten hours per day. If the total hours worked is not more than 12 hours, the second meal period can be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee. However, the waiver is only valid if the first meal period was not waived. Also, the laws in different states regarding rest or meal breaks can vary based on the type of occupation. For example, the requirements for factory workers may not be the same as the requirements for those who work in a non-factory setting.
If you are not sure if you are entitled to rest or meal breaks or if you feel that your employer is violating the laws regarding rest or meal breaks, then it may be useful to consult an experienced employment law attorney. Employers may also consult an employment law attorney to make sure that they are in compliance with state and federal employment laws.