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West Virginia Lunch and Break Laws

Over at our main lunch, break, and hour law post, a reader just posted a great question. I decided that it deserved a full answer in a separate post. Ginger from West Virginia writes:

I live in West Virginia and I work 10-12 hour days. My employer only gives me a half hour unpaid lunch break and sometimes he has us to cut our lunch short. When he has us take a 10-15 lunch break, we do not get paid for it. I thought that in WV, for every 8 hours of work you had to be given 2 15 minute paid breaks and a half hour lunch. It was also to my understanding that if you took a lunch break that was under 20 minutes, you were supossed to get paid for it. …

The West Virginia Division of Labor maintains a fairly comprehensive website. This enabled me to find the answer to Ginger’s question. Unfortunately, it looks like the mandatory state breaks are not very generous.

Disclaimer: As of this writing, I am not a licensed attorney. This post is intended for educational purposes only.

Lunch breaks

The West Virginia legislature passed a mandatory lunch break law in 1994. The law requires that employers provide a 20 minute meal break during a workday of six or more hours. Here is the relevant portion of the statute:

During the course of a workday of six or more hours, all employers shall make available for each of their employees, at least twenty minutes for meal breaks, at times reasonably designated by the employer.

That means an employer could cut a 30 minute lunch short, as long as the meal break is still at least 20 minutes. Also, there is no federal or West Virginia state requirement that these lunch breaks be paid.

Rest breaks

Like most states, West Virginia does not require short rest periods. Your employer doesn’t have to give you a coffee break or let you go out to smoke.

However, if a West Virginia employer provides a short break (less than 20 minutes), it must be paid. If your employer cuts your lunch break shorter than 20 minutes, it would become a paid break.

For further help

I strongly advise anyone with legal questions to contact a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction. They can give better advice on your specific state’s laws.

For West Virginia labor questions, check out the West Virginia Division of Labor online. You can also call Sandra Cunningham in the Wage & Hour department: 304-558-7890.

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4 Responses to “West Virginia Lunch and Break Laws”

  1. Wess
    September 2nd, 2007

    What is WV ? We are not talking about the cars – VW no ?

  2. Andrew Flusche
    September 2nd, 2007

    Hey Wess!

    Sorry for the confusion there. “WV” is the 2-letter postal abbreviation for West Virginia. Sometimes I forget that lots of readers aren’t from the United States, so nuances like this might be confusing.

    Thanks for your comment,

  3. Mary
    January 8th, 2009

    Ok, I have a couple more questions from WV. (1)Can an employer make it mandatory for an employee to work a sixth day? (2)Also can the employer make it mandatory for the employee to work over time hours or is that something that is choice?

  4. Andrew Flusche
    January 9th, 2009

    @Mary – In most states, the answers to your questions would be that an employer CAN do these things. If you need advice on specific West Virginia laws, you should contact an attorney licensed in WV.

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