Break Periods

Editor's Note: Employee breaks aren't always breaks from pay.

Michael CardmanOverview: Federal law does not require employers to provide employees meal or rest breaks. But several states have laws that require employers to offer meal and/or rest breaks.

Employers that do provide meal or rest breaks generally must pay employees for that time, unless they:

  1. are not required to do so by the state in which they are operating, and
  2. comply with federal requirements for unpaid meal and rest breaks.

Employers often are tripped up on the requirement that employees must be completely relieved from duty for a meal or rest break to be unpaid. So, if an employee performs even the slightest bit of work during a break, such as answering a phone call, the employee must then be paid for the entire break time.

Also, new mothers must be provided reasonable unpaid break time to express milk for a nursing child.

Trends: Many employers are reconsidering their policies of automatically deducting time for meal or rest breaks from employee paychecks in the wake of a series of lawsuits by groups of employees who claimed they were actually working during the breaks.

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

Latest items in Break Periods

  • Hours Worked: Illinois

    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

    Updated to reflect a forthcoming law exempting domestic employees from the Illinois day of rest law.

  • Meal and Rest Breaks Handbook Statement: California

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Updated policy and guidance to reflect case law developments regarding the importance of paying the meal break premium for meal breaks that are missed or interrupted.

  • California Meal Break Waiver Form

    Type:
    Policies and Documents

    The California Meal Break Waiver Form should be used to document the required mutual consent of an employer and an employee to waive meal breaks in the certain limited situations in which meal periods may be waived.

  • Hours Worked: Utah

    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

    Updated to refine the scope of coverage to include only breastfeeding break laws that apply to private employers.

  • Breastfeeding Break Requirements by State

    Type:
    Quick Reference

    Updated to refine the scope of coverage to include only breastfeeding break laws that apply to private employers.

  • Hours Worked: Louisiana

    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

    Updated to refine the scope of coverage to include only breastfeeding break laws that apply to private employers.

  • Lactation Accommodation Handbook Statement: New York

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    New York employers that do not have a lactation accommodation policy in their handbook and are seeking to show their compliance and support for New York law which requires that employers provide unpaid break time and reasonable locations for employees to express breast milk should consider including this model policy statement in their New York supplement.

  • Lactation Accommodation Handbook Statement: California

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    California employers seeking to encourage and demonstrate compliance with the California law requiring employers to provide unpaid break time and reasonable locations for employees to express breast milk should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook .

  • Meal Breaks for Minors Handbook Statement: New Jersey

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    New Jersey employers that employ minor employees (those under age 18) and seek to inform the minor employees and their supervisors about legally required meal breaks and to demonstrate compliance with New Jersey law should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Date:
    March 25, 2015
    Type:
    Legal Timetable