Rest and Meal Breaks

Federal law governing rest and meal breaks can be found in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA does not require short rest and meal breaks. However, certain rules are triggered when an employer offers them.

According to federal law, short breaks are compensable work hours. This means that even though the law does not require an employer to give a short 5 to 20 minute break for coffee or snacks, when they are offered, they must be paid as normal working hours. Additionally, they must also be included and considered when determining whether an employee is eligible for overtime pay.

What happens when an employee extends the short rest or meal break without permissions?

The general rule of compensation for short rest and meal breaks does not apply under certain circumstances. Mainly, when an employer has let an employee know exactly how long the short break should last and that extensions are not permissible and will be punished, an employee may not be compensated for any amount of time beyond the designated rest period.

What is a bona fide meal break?

FLSA sometimes refers to a meal break lasting more than 20 minutes (usually 30 minutes to one hour) as a bona fide meal break. This means time during which an employee is not conducting work activity and is completely relieved of duty. These hours are not compensable, meaning an employer is not required to pay an employee for such breaks.

Bona fide sleep periods are treated in the law in a similar fashion. When an employee is required to work for periods of more than 24 hours, he or she may agree with an employer to a period of time (at least more than 5 hours) for sleeping while still at work. This time is not compensable. However, if an employee has a sleep break and is working for less than 24 hours, he or she is entitled to compensation for this break according to the law.

State Laws on Rest and Meal Breaks

Some states require rest or meal breaks. In states that require rest breaks these breaks usually last 10 minutes and are required when an employee must work for designated time frequencies. For instance, in Vermont, a short restroom break is required for every four hours of work.

Other states require meal breaks after designated work periods. In California, an employer must provide at least one 30 minute meal break for every 6 hours of work. Again, unless the time period consists of work activities, the law does not require compensation for these designated meal breaks.

When problems arise concerning rest and meal periods, you could be entitled to back pay. The best option is to consult legal counsel well-versed in employment law. An attorney with experience in dealing with FLSA issues can address the situation with successful results. The attorneys at the California Employment Legal Group possess a wealth of expertise in this area. For help with your rest and meal break issue, give the California Employment Legal Group a call today.