Overview: 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:
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.
Trends: Many employers are reconsidering their policies of automatically deducting time for meal or rest breaks from employee paychecks in the wake of of lawsuits by employees who claimed they were actually working during the breaks.
Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor
Updated to reflect amendments to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination regarding breastfeeding employees, effective January 8, 2018.
Updated to reflect expanded protections for breastfeeding employees in New Jersey, effective January 8, 2018.
Updated to reflect a San Francisco law regarding lactation accommodation, effective January 1, 2018.
Updated to reflect proposed rules that would expand show-up time / reporting time requirements.
Use this workflow to determine whether the time that a nonexempt employee spends waiting, on call, on a meal break or on a rest break counts as "hours worked" under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Updated to reflect an amendment regarding rest breaks, effective September 13, 2017.
Updated to reflect an amendment regarding rest breaks in Maine, effective September 13, 2017.
Updated guidance to reflect amendments clarifying the use of unpaid meal breaks, effective November 1, 2017.
Updated to reflect expanded protections under the Nevada Pregnant Workers' Fairness Act, effective October 1, 2017.
HR Guidance on complying with federal and state requirements governing employee meal and rest breaks.