My original post on lunch break laws still remains one of the most popular articles on this blog. Many people are highly interested in lunch labor laws, as evidenced by the 98 comments that are still being posted.
Lunch labor laws affect us all
If you’re human, you have to eat. If you have a job, you’ll probably work several hours during the day, most likely across the normal lunch time. Thus, you probably wonder about lunch labor laws.
Hourly workers are most concerned about the law regarding their lunch breaks, but I routinely receive many questions from salaried workers as well. And interestingly, a Zogby study found that 90% of salaried workers held an hourly job at one time in their life.
As you can see, lunch break labor laws are a key topic for everyone.
No federal lunch break
You may be surprised to learn that there is no lunch break federal requirement. The Fair Labor Standards Act does not require that your employer give you a lunch break.
Fact Sheet #22 explains this further.
Lunch break paid?
Federal law also does not require that your lunch breaks be paid. Generally speaking, if you are completely relieved from work duties for 30 minutes or more, you do not have to be paid for that time.
This rule makes sense, if you think about it. Most workers don’t expect to be paid for their lunch time. But if you are not relieved from duty, your employer must compensate you. That doesn’t really count as a lunch break, does it?
State lunch labor laws
But there’s still hope for some of you. Many states have passed laws regarding lunch break requirements. If you work in one of those states, your employer has to make sure that he complies with the state regulations.
Here is a summary of the individual state lunch labor laws. Note that not all industries are required to comply with these regulations in each state.
California – 1/2 hour after 5 hours worked, unless shift is only 6 hours
Colorado – 1/2 hour after 5 hours worked, unless shift is only 6 hours
Connecticut – if shift is 7.5 hours, 1/2 hour lunch after first 2 hours but before last 2 hours
Delaware – if shift is 7.5 hours, 1/2 hour lunch after first 2 hours but before last 2 hours
Illinois – required for hotel room attendants only
Kentucky – reasonable meal period between 3rd and 5th hour of shift
Maine – 1/2 hour after 6 consecutive hours
Massachusetts – 1/2 hour, if work is more than 6 hours
Minnesota – reasonable period, if shift is 8+ consecutive hours
Nebraska – 1/2 hour, off premises, at suitable lunch time
Nevada – 1/2 hour, if work is 8 consecutive hours
New Hampshire – 1/2 hour, after 5 consecutive hours – unless employee can eat while working
New York – 1/2 hour, if shift is more than 6 hours
North Dakota – 1/2 hour, if work is more than 5 hours
Oregon – 1/2 hour
Rhode Island – 20 minutes for 6 hour shift; 30 minutes for 8 hour shift
Tennessee – 1/2 hour, if shift is 6 hours
Washington – 1/2 hour, for 5 hour shift
West Virginia – 20 minutes, if work is more than 6 consecutive hours
If you have questions about your individual state, you should contact your state’s department of labor. Here is a link to each state’s labor website:
If I didn’t cover your question above, feel free to post a comment below.
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