How long does a meal break need to be?

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

If an employer wishes to have unpaid meal breaks, then the meal break generally must be at least 30 uninterrupted minutes long.

If an employer pays it nonexempt employees for time spent in meal breaks, federal law does not require that the meal breaks be any particular duration.

However, 20 states - California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia - require meal breaks of certain durations. Employers should consult state laws and regulations to determine the minimum length of a meal break.