Are Employee Rest Breaks Mandatory?

Must an Employer give all employees a break?  Do you have to give your employees a rest break every 4 hours?  How long does the break have to be?  Are breaks paid time or unpaid?  The answer depends on your state.   Some states do require breaks for non-exempt employees, though most do NOT have any such requirements for adults.  There are often more regulations concerning the work hours for minors, including type of work done, length of workshift, or even work days.

Federal law: The federal law does NOT require any breaks from private employers.  What it does require is that any work breaks that are 2o minutes or less must be paid.  That is it.  If your state does not have its own break laws, then you go by the federal standards.

State Laws differ.  Currently, the DOL only lists 9 states that have mandatory break laws for adults: CA, CO, IL, KY, MN, NV, OR, VT, WA.  Most of these impose the following: 10 minutes per every 4 hours of work.   There may be additional regulations for minors or specific industries.  New York, especially, is known for arcane work laws for particular industries (some of which no longer exist).

Additional Information: The federal Department of Labor provides an excellent summary of the various state regulations:

http://www.dol.gov/whd/state/rest.htm

What if my state does not require a break?  Even though many states do NOT require breaks, most employers still offer breaks to their employees, giving them the chance to stretch, use the restroom, smoke, snack, or get some fresh air.  You as an employer need to decide if it makes good business sense to provide those breaks.

What about exempt employees?  Employees who are exempt from overtime, are usually also exempt from break and lunch rules.  Most employers will offer exempt employees the same number of breaks that are given to hourly employees, but that decision is yours to make.

Establish your break rules in writing.  Make sure there is a section in your company employee handbook covering this topic.  Setting your rules in writing helps to prevent any confusion and also makes it easier to enforce your standards.  Consult a labor law attorney for help in designing an Employee Handbook that will meet the legal requirements for your state, local, industry, and size.

Whether employee breaks are required or not, most employers find that breaks help with productivity.  Encourage employees to use their break times for their personal needs, like phone calls, smoking, snacking, and chatting with one another.

Planning on Hiring Employees soon? Consider some of our guidebooks. You will find them practical and helpful. Click on the book cover that interests you to learn more.

Employer's Guide to Hiring PeopleRetailers Guide to Hiring Employees

 

 

Hiring Church Employees2Paperwork for Church New HiresHiring Paperwork cover3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Are Employee Lunch Breaks Mandatory?

Employers have many questions concerning meal breaks: Are you required to give an employee a lunch break?  Is it only for those who work 8 hours?  How long should an employee lunch be?  30 minutes?  1 hour?  Should it be paid or not paid?

Did you know that only 20 states require private employers to give adult employees a meal period?  The majority of states have NO lunch break requirement for adults in the private sector (though 34 states have laws about meal periods for minors).

Federal law:  The federal government does not require private companies to offer lunch breaks.  However, if a break is 20 minutes or less, it must be paid.   To avoid violating this law, most employers set unpaid lunches at 30 minutes or longer.  If someone clocks back in a little early you will not be in violation of the federal law.

State Laws:  If your state regulates meal periods, it often sets requirements for how long someone can work before getting a lunch (5 or 6 hours).   Currently, the states that do require a lunch break are CA, CO, CT, DE, IL, KY, ME, MA, MN, NE, NV, NH, NY, ND, OR, RI, TN, VT, WA, and WV.  In New York they even specify what time of day the lunch has to happen.  The Department of Labor offers an excellent summary of the various state laws (which can get confusing):

http://www.dol.gov/whd/state/meal.htm

Exempt Employees:  Often rest break and meal period rules do not apply to salaried- exempt employees.  See the DOL link above for details.

Get your policies in writing: We recommend that an employer gets their lunch breaks and rest breaks set up as formal policies and put them in writing in an Employee Handbook. Creating a handbook takes time and requires hiring an attorney to either create it or to at least review it, to make sure everything is legal.

Planning on Hiring Employees soon? Consider some of our guidebooks. You will find them practical and helpful. Click on the book cover that interests you to learn more.

Employer's Guide to Hiring PeopleRetailers Guide to Hiring EmployeesHiring Church Employees2Paperwork for Church New HiresHiring Paperwork cover3

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