The majority of employers provide their employees with rest breaks, and in some cases, employees are paid during them. However, while this practice may be common, it is not always required. A federal law called the FLSA, or Fair Labor Standards Act, has established that employers are not responsible for providing rest breaks or meals to their workers. At the same time, states have their own laws, some of which are opposed to FLSA.
Employers are not required to pay their employees during breaks unless state law requires it, you’re expected to work during the break, or the breaks is less than twenty minutes. Any break shorter than twenty minutes is seen as part of the work day and therefore must be compensated for. Different states will have different laws regarding this, and it is therefore important to familiarize yourself with local laws.
Less than half of all states in the U.S. require employers to provide a break for meals, and in the states which have this requirement, workers that are employed for more than six hours are eligible for a thirty minute break. Additionally, some states have rules which specifically forbade employers from giving these thirty minute breaks at the start or end of a work day. Regarding payment, employees aren’t entitled to it during breaks unless they work during it.
Additional State Laws
There are only a handful of states in the U.S. that make it mandatory for employers to provide rest breaks, and these states are Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, California, Colorado, Kentucky and Minnesota. Most of these states specify that employees must be given a ten minute break for every four hours worked, and this break must be paid. Exceptions to this are Vermont and Minnesota. Some states give employers the option of choosing either a series of rest breaks or one large meal break for their workers.
Young Workers are Subject to Different Rules
Some states have specific rules for younger employees when it comes to work time management. For example, states that already require a break for workers will typically have additional rules for minors which are stricter. In Delaware employers are expected to give their employees a 30-minute break for meals every 7.5 hours, but minors are required to get a 30-minute break for every 5 hours they work. Some states have rules which are specific to all workers under the age of 18, while the laws in other states are specific to workers who are 15 years of age or younger.
What should be Done If Breaks Are Not Being Given?
All employees should take the time to familiarize themselves with both state and federal law when it comes to breaks. The laws for one state may differ drastically from another, and should an employee find that his or her employer is not giving them the breaks that are required by law, or that they are expected to work during their breaks while not receiving payment, then these employees will need to contact the labor department within the state where they are employed.