Are employers required to provide a lunch break? How about a coffee break? Here are five things you should know about employment laws that are put in place regarding rest and lunch breaks:
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- There is no federal law requiring rest or lunch breaks. According to the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA), employers are not required to provide breaks or lunches (paid or unpaid). Since it’s not a federal law, it’s up to the states to determine if rest periods should be required or not.
- Nine states require rest breaks. For example, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Nevada, Oregon and Washington require that employees get a 10-minute break for every four hours of work. However, Minnesota and Vermont only require “reasonable” restroom breaks. Illinois has a break policy of 15-minutes, but it is only required for hotel attendants.
- Only 20 states require a lunch break. California, Colorado, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Washington require 30-minutes lunch for five hours of work. Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and West Virginia are the other 15 states that require a lunch break.
- Nursing mothers are covered under federal law and state law. Nursing mothers are required to be provided with “reasonable” break time and employers have to provide a place that is from view and free from coworkers and the public.
- Health conditions are covered under the protection of Americans With Disabilities Act. If a meal or break is required for a health condition and a request is placed with the Americans With Disabilities Act, the company is required to provide the requested breaks.
Even if there are no laws put in place in your state, employers may have company policies that provide rest and lunch breaks for their employees. When a company provides breaks that are not state required, the amount and duration can be set by the employer. However, if an employee works through an unpaid lunch, they are still generally entitled to compensation.
If you are an employer and you are in a state that does not provide laws regarding breaks or even if you want to make sure your employees are aware of your break policies, it may be a good idea to have an employee handbook. An Employee Handbook will outline your employment policies. It is best to set clear expectations and well-communicated policies. Having a guide in place provides many benefits for a company:
- Legal protection. An employee handbook describes the employment relationship, time off policies, break and lunch policies, reasons for possible termination, harassment and discrimination policies, and complaint procedures.
- Saves time. A comprehensive handbook will give employees something to refer to should they have any questions about what is expected.
- Defines expectations. An Employee Handbook will cover restrictive topics such as hygiene and dress codes, social media and computer use restrictions, drug and alcohol policies.
If you believe you’re not receiving the amount of break time that is required, contact your State Department of Labor for additional information or if you still have questions regarding employment law, you can ask a lawyer.