Meal and Rest Breaks: Your Rights as an Employee

Many employers provide the employees with rest or a lunch break. This rest or a lunch break can either be paid or unpaid. This is a common thing that is practiced around the world, however, there are quite a few places as well where there is no such requirement.s The FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) also called federal wage and hour law does not require the employers to provide their employees with rest or meal breaks. Some states may have the facility to give such breaks, but most of them do not.

If you get the rest breaks or meal, your employer does not have to pay for it unless:

  • Paid rest breaks are required by the state's law.
  • You work during the break time.
  • Your break time is for 20 minutes or less; generally, these shorter breaks are considered part of your work day and must be paid.

State Laws on Meal Breaks

There will be only half of the states that would provide the employers with a meal break. In those states that require a meal break, employees are allowed to take a half hour to eat if they work for more than five or six hours at a time. There are some states that would not let the employers with this break or meal time near the beginning or end of the work shift. if you want to have a look at the list of meal breaks laws by the State, go to the Department of Labor's Website and you will find all the necessary information there.

You don't have to pay for this time if you are completely relieved of all the duties. If you are both working and having your meal at the same time, for example, by answering the phone calls or waiting for a delivery- then you have the right to be paid for this time.

State Laws on Rest Breaks

There are only a few states which allow their employers to allow the employees to take rest breaks throughout the workday. In most of the states, the employees can take a rest of ten minutes, with pay for every four hours of work. A few states are allowing the employers to choose between a meal break or a rest break. You can find for information related to these things by checking the list of state rest break laws at the Department of Labor's website.

Different Rules Apply to Younger Workers

A number of states require their employers to allow the younger workers to take their meal or rest breaks. In some states only such breaks are taken by the adult workers only and the rules for the minors are quite stricter. For example, in Delaware, the employer must provide a 30-minute meal break once they work for five hours.
There are also some special break rules for the employees and especially for the minors in some states. Some have these rules only for minors who are not yet 18 years old, while others have special break rules only for minors who are 15 years or younger.

A number of states require employers to allow younger workers to take meal or rest breaks. In states that require breaks for adult workers, the rules for minors are sometimes stricter. For example, Delaware requires employers to provide a 30-minute meal break to employees who work at least seven and a half hours; minors are entitled to a 30-minute break once they work five hours. For information on your state's break rules for younger workers, contact your state labor 's Department.

What to Do If You Aren't Getting Your Breaks

If you are not allowed to take the meal breaks or rest break, or you are working on your breaks without getting paid for it, you should contact your State Labor Department. If you want to learn more about meal and rest break rules and other laws that are made for labors, get Your Rights in the Workplace, by Barbara Kate Repa(Nolo).