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Employment Contract Law: How Many Breaks Am I Entitled To?

Employment contract law was created to ensure that the rights of employees are protected. It is not uncommon for employers to provide employees with periodic rests and lunch breaks, whether paid or unpaid. Contrary to popular belief, these breaks are not mandated by federal labor law, known as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Some, but not all, states have passed laws addressing this specific issue. What the FLSA does require, however, is that the breaks allowed by an employee be included in the sum of working hours during the workweek and considered when calculating whether or not an employee earned overtime pay.

If you or someone you know thinks an employer is prohibiting you from taking breaks to which you may be entitled, contact an experienced employment contract law attorney to learn about your rights.

State Law Regarding Rest & Meal Breaks

Less than half of the nation’s states mandate employers to provide a meal break. If you or someone you know resides and works in a state that does require meal breaks, the time allowed to eat for employees who work more than five or six hours is 30 minutes. Some states have passed laws that prohibit employers from having the meal break near the beginning or end of a work shift. If no work is being conducted during the meal break, the employee is not entitled to compensation. If work is done, however, the employer is required to be paid for this time.

In New York, Labor Law Section 162 sets specific required meal periods for employees. These include:

  • Factory workers – 60-minute lunch break between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and a 60-minute meal break at the time midway between the beginning and end of the shift for all shifts of more than six hours starting between 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. and lasting more than six hours.
  • Non-factory workers – 30-minute lunch break between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. for shifts six hours or longer that extend over that period and a 45-minute meal break at the time midway between the beginning and end of the shift for all shifts of more than six hours starting between 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
  • All workers – an additional 20-minute meal break between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. for workdays that extend from before 11:00 a.m. to after 7:00 p.m.

Only eight states require employers to allow rest breaks. These include California, Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Laws in Minnesota and Vermont merely require the employer to allow enough break time to use the restroom. Laws in the remaining states generally allow 10-minute breaks, with pay, for every four hours of work.

Other states in the nation allow an employer to choose whether to provide meal or rest breaks. A few states have even stricter rules for younger workers (under 18 years of age). Some state laws apply generally to all minors, while others apply to minors under the age of 15.

Employment Contract Law: Know Your Rights

If you or someone you know isn’t allowed to take legally required breaks, or is being required to work through those breaks without receiving compensation, contact an experienced and aggressive employment contract law attorney today. The legal professionals at White, Ricotta & Marks, P.C. have years of experience handling employment contract law discrepancies. Call (800) 240-9269 today to schedule an initial consultation.

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