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 revisions to proposed rules that would expand show-up time / reporting time requirements.
Updated to reflect an amendment to the rest breaks law, effective September 20, 2018.
Updated to reflect an amendment to the breastfeeding breaks law, effective August 21, 2018.
Updated to reflect amendments to the breastfeeding breaks law in Illinois, effective August 21, 2018.
Updated to reflect a forthcoming amendment regarding meal breaks in California.
A policy under which employees could purchase discounted food on the condition that they agree to eat it on their employer's premises did not violate California's meal breaks law, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Rodriguez v. Taco Bell.
Updated to reflect working time requirements under the employee work scheduling law, effective July 1, 2018.
The US Department of Labor opined about how to ascertain travel time by employees without regular working hours, whether frequent rest breaks required by a "serious health condition" are compensable, and which types of lump-sum payments are "earnings" subject to garnishment limits.
HR Guidance on complying with federal and state requirements governing employee meal and rest breaks.