Meal and Rest Break Compliance Laws By State

HR Management
Beirit Harvey August 30, 2021 19 min read

Do you know if you need to offer or even pay your employees for lunch and rest breaks? If you’re not in compliance with federal and state regulations you could face hefty lawsuits or fines. We’ve done our research and listed all meal and rest break compliance laws by state!

 

people eating lunch at work

Quick Guide

    Do you ever find yourself eating lunch at your desk while you’re still working? Or while you’re driving a truck for your transportation company? Maybe you’ve run to the back office to scarf down a protein bar? If so, you should be getting paid for this “lunch break” even though it may not feel like a break at all. 

    Do you even know how long your lunch break should be or how many breaks you’re allowed to have in a day and for long? You may have been given this information by your boss, but everyone is human and prone to error. Not to mention, state and federal labor laws change frequently. 

    But as a manager, you really must know these laws. You don’t want to face any lawsuits or fines for not following federal and state meal and rest break laws. Meal and rest break laws and regulations vary by state and “federal law does not require that [employees] be allotted or paid for breaks to eat meals”, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide your employees with meal and rest breaks. No, it just means that you will have to follow work break laws and rest break regulations as put forth by your state. 

    With that being said, it may be beneficial for you to actually offer your employees paid rest and meal breaks

    SBC notes that there are several benefits to giving your employees paid rest and meal breaks at work.

    If you’re not providing your employees rest and meal breaks it may be time to do so, but that’s totally up to you!

    Regulatory compliance is essential and it’s up to the manager to ensure that all state laws and regulations are followed carefully. In addition, there are federal laws that must be followed closely as well in order to be in federal compliance. Federal Law requires “employers must pay for hours worked, including certain time that an employer may designate as “breaks.” For example, if an employee has to work through a meal, that time must be paid”. 

    Additionally, “Federal law also requires employers to pay for short breaks an employee is allowed to take during the day. Breaks lasting from five to 20 minutes are considered part of the workday, for which employees must be paid”. The only time an employer DOES NOT need to pay for meal breaks is when the employee has stopped all work duties and is only eating. Keep in mind that “it does not require employers to offer break time in the first place”. Lastly, there are special laws that employers in certain states must abide by for pregnant or nursing mothers. 

    That being said, thousands of industries are investing in technology to accurately track employee work hours, including any breaks taken. With an employee time tracking software, like Connecteam, you can track employee hours for reporting purposes. Digitally tracking employee hours also makes payroll super easy to calculate at the end of the month, while simultaneously saving managers time and effort. 

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    Not all states allow for 30 minutes lunch and two 10 minute rest breaks, but in order to be sure, we’ve done some deep reading and looked into each state’s meal break and rest break compliance laws. 

    Meal and Rest Break Compliance Laws By State

    Alabama

    Alabama does not require that employers pay for meal and rest breaks, but they must follow all federal laws listed above. Federal law states that “although breaks are not required, employers must pay employees for time they spend working and for shorter breaks during the day. 

    An employer that chooses to provide a longer meal break, during which the employee is relieved of all job duties, does not have to pay the employee for that time”. This is true for any state that does not require employers to pay for meal and rest breaks. 

    Alaska

    Alaska state laws are a bit different, although once again they have to follow all federal laws. Alaska Statute 23.10.350(c), requires “employers to provide at least a 30-minute break to employees ages 14-17 if they work five (5) or more consecutive hours. The break must occur after the first hour and a half of work but before the beginning of the last hour of work”. 

    In addition, “Alaska employers are not required to provide breaks to employees ages 18 and over. However, if an employer chooses to provide a break, it must pay its employees for the time on break if it is 20 minutes or less. Meal periods provided by employers of over 20 minutes do not need to be paid, so long as employees do not perform any work”.

    Lastly, while Alaska state law does not require employers to provide nursing mothers with paid breaks, the FLSA requires that non-exempt nursing mothers “or one (1) year following a child’s birth with reasonable rest breaks to express milk and private spaces, other than a bathroom, to express breast milk”.

    Arizona

    There are no mandatory laws to require Arizona to pay for meal and rest breaks. Although the law does require, “an employer provides 2 ten minute breaks during a shift, the employer must pay the employee during the breaks”. 

    Furthermore, if an employer does not want to pay for meal breaks then an employee must stop working while taking their lunch break. 

    Arkansas 

    There is no Arkansas state law that requires employers to provide meal and rest breaks. 

    California

    The US Department of Labor notes for the state of California that employers are required to provide “paid 10-minute rest period for each 4 hours worked or major fraction thereof; as practicable, in [the] middle of each work period. Not required for employees whose total daily work time is less than 3 and ½ hours.This includes paid “recovery period” which means a cool down period afforded an employee to prevent heat illness”.

    Meal breaks are quite different. The California meal break law requires “½ hour, if work is for more than 5 hours per day, except when [the] workday will be completed in 6 hours or less and there is mutual employer/employee consent to waive meal period. On-duty meal period[s] [are] counted as time worked and permitted only when nature of work prevents relief from all duties and there is written agreement between parties. Employee[s] may revoke [the] agreement at any time”.

    In addition, the law states “an employer may not employ an employee for a work period of more than 10 hours per day without providing the employee with a second meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that if the total hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and employee only if the first meal period was not waived”.

    Colorado

    Colorado state laws require “paid 10-minute rest period for each 4-hour work period or major fraction thereof; as practicable, in [the] middle of each work period”. And there are several industries and professions that this law covers specifically.

    Meal breaks are “½ hour if [the] work shift exceeds 5 consecutive hours. On-duty meal period[s] counted as time worked and permitted when nature of work prevents relief from all duties”.

    The DOL notes, these laws are applicable to “retail and service, food and beverage, commercial support service, and health and medical industries. Exempts administrative, executive/supervisor, professional, outside sales employees, elected officials and their staff, companions, casual babysitters, and domestic employees employed by households or family members to perform duties in private residences, property managers, interstate drivers, driver helpers, loaders or mechanics of motor carriers, taxi cab drivers, and bona fide volunteers. 

    Also exempt are: students employed by sororities, fraternities, college clubs, or dormitories, and students employed in a work experience study program and employees working in laundries of charitable institutions which pay no wages to workers and inmates, or patient workers who work in institutional laundries”.

    Connecticut 

    Connecticut law requires employers to provide a meal or rest break, not both, and it must be the same duration of time. Under Connecticut law, employers must give a 30-minute meal break to employees who work at least seven and a half consecutive hours. Connecticut state law states “an employer does not have to pay for this time; in other words, meal breaks are unpaid. The break must be provided after the employee’s first two hours of work and before the employee’s last two hours of work. Employers do not have to offer a meal break if they offer paid rest breaks…”, but one of the two must be provided. 

    Delaware

    While employees MUST be provided an unpaid meal break, Delaware state law requires “employees who work at least seven and a half consecutive hours must be given a 30-minute meal break. This break must be given after the first two hours and before the last two hours of the employee’s shift.”

    D.C.

    D.C. state law does not require meal and rest breaks. 

    Florida

    Florida state law does not require meal and rest breaks. 

    Georgia 

    Georgia state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Hawaii

    Hawaii state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Idaho

    Idaho state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Illinois

    The state of Illinois does require unpaid meal breaks unless the employee is working during this time, the law states that “employees who work at least seven and a half continuous hours. This break must be at least 20 minutes long, and it must start no later than five hours after the beginning of the shift”. There are different laws specifically for the hospitality industry; and only for hotel room attendants. The law states that “those who clean guest rooms or put them in order – are entitled to a longer meal break. These employees must get a 30-minute meal break if they work at least seven hours”.

    Additionally, the state of Illinois requires paid rest breaks for hotel room attendants. The Illinois state law notes “they are the only employees who are also entitled to rest breaks. These employees must be provided two paid rest breaks, 15 minutes each, if they work at least seven hours. These breaks are in addition to the meal break described above. Attendants must be provided a break area, with seating. They may not be required to work during their breaks”.

    Indiana

    Indiana state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Iowa

    Iowa state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Kansas

    Kansas state law “doesn’t require employers to provide any breaks. However, an employer who chooses to provide a meal break of less than 30 minutes must pay the employee for that time. Like most states, Kansas doesn’t require employers to provide rest breaks, paid or otherwise”.

    Kentucky 

    Kentucky does require employers to provide meal and rest breaks. Kentucky state law requires “paid 10-minute rest period during each 4-hour work period”. These laws exclude employees under the FRLA.

    Additionally, “Kentucky employees are entitled to a “reasonable” off-duty period to eat a meal (the law doesn’t specify how long this break must be). Employees may not be required to take this break before the third hour of work or after the fifth hour of work. The break must be close to the middle of the employee’s shift. This time need not be paid”. 

    Furthermore in regards to pregnant or nursing mothers, Kentucky law states, “Employers must also make reasonable accommodations for employees with pregnancy- or childbirth-related conditions and nursing mothers unless doing so would cause undue hardship”. 

    Louisiana 

    Louisiana state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Maine

    Maine does require a meal break “30 minutes after 6 consecutive hours, except in cases of emergency” although this “time is unpaid, unless the employer chooses to pay employees for breaks. Small businesses – those with three or fewer employees on duty at a time – do not have to provide meal breaks, if employees are able to take frequent breaks during the workday”.

    Maryland

    Maryland state law doesn’t require rest breaks, but does require a meal break that is a “15 minute break for 4-6 consecutive hours or a 30 minute break for more than 6 consecutive hours. If an employee works 8 or more consecutive hours, the employer must provide a 30-minute break and an additional 15 minute break for every additional 4 consecutive hours worked”.

    Massachusetts

    Massachusetts law does not require that employers provide paid or unpaid breaks, but meal break laws require a paid or unpaid “30 minutes, if work is for more than 6 hours during a calendar day”. This law excludes “iron works, glass works, paper mills, letter press establishments, print works, and bleaching or dyeing works”.

    Michigan 

    Michigan state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Minnesota

    Minnesota is one of the few states that do require employers to provide both meal and rest breaks. The Minnesota law states employees must be “paid adequate rest period within each 4 consecutive hours of work, to utilize [the] nearest convenient restroom. Rest periods of less than 20 minutes may not be deducted from total hours worked”.

    Meal breaks, according to Minnesota state law, require “Minnesota employers must provide “sufficient” unpaid time to allow employees who work at least eight consecutive hours to have a meal. Certain agricultural and seasonal employees aren’t covered”.

    Mississippi

    Mississippi state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Missouri

    Missouri state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Montana

    Montana state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Nebraska

    Nebraska state law does require meal breaks. The law states the employees are entitled to “½ hour, off premises, for lunch in each 8-hour shift”. This is only applicable to “assembly plant, workshop, or mechanical establishment” and no other industries. 

    Nevada

    The Nevada paid rest break law is as follows… the state requires a “paid 10-minute rest period for each 4 hours worked or major fraction thereof; as practicable, in [the] middle of each work period. [It is] not required for employees whose total daily work time is less than 3 and ½ hours”. This law is applicable to those with 2 or more employees and “excludes employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement”.

    The Nevada paid meal break law covers lunch up to “½ hour, if work is for 8 continuous hours” and this law is applicable to those with 2 or more employees and “excludes employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement”.

    New Hampshire

    While there is no rest break requirement, the meal break law requires “½ hour, after 5 consecutive hours, unless feasible for [the] employee to eat while working and is permitted to do so by employer” and is applicable to all employers. It’s important to keep in mind that just because meal breaks are required, that does not mean they must be paid unless the employee is working while eating. 

    New Jersey

    New Jersey state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    New Mexico

    New Mexico state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    New York

    New York does not require employers to provide rest breaks, but are required to provide meal breaks. 

    The different meal break laws are broken down by industry and shift type. For example, “factory employees are entitled to a one-hour break between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m…Mercantile employees and all other employees covered by New York’s labor laws are entitled to a 30-minute break between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m…If an employee’s shift starts before 11 a.m. and ends after 7 p.m., the employee is entitled to an additional 20-minute break between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m…If an employee works a shift of more than six hours that starts between 1 p.m. and 6 a.m., the employee is entitled to a meal break in the middle of the shift. Factory employees get a one-hour break; mercantile and other employees covered by the labor laws get a 45-minute break”.

    North Carolina

    North Carolina state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    North Dakota

    North Dakota state law does not require rest breaks, but their meal break law requires employees to take a “½ hour, if desired, on each shift exceeding 5 hours”. In addition, “the break may be unpaid only if the employee is completely relieved of all job duties. Meal breaks are required only when two or more employees are on duty”.

    Ohio

    Ohio state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Oklahoma

    Oklahoma state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Oregon

    Oregon state law requires all employers to provide a “paid 10-minute rest period for every 4-hour segment or major portion thereof in one work period; as feasible, approximately in [the] middle of each segment of work period”.

    In addition, the meal break law requires “½ hour, with relief from all duty, for each work period of 6 to 8 hours, between 2nd and 5th hour for work period of 7 hours or less and between 3rd and 6th hour for work period over 7 hours; or, less than ½ hour but not less than 20 minutes, with pay, with relief from all duty, where employer[s] can show that such a paid meal period is industry practice or custom; or, where employer[s] can show that nature of work prevents relief from all duty, an eating period with pay while on duty for each period of 6 to 8 hours”.

    Pennsylvania

    While Pennsylvania does not require meal breaks “only employers of seasonal farmworkers are required to provide [rest] breaks. These employers must give employees a 30-minute break after five hours of work, during which employees must be relieved of all duties. This time may be unpaid”.

    Rhode Island

    Rhode Island does not require rest breaks, but does require meal breaks and “all employees are entitled to a 20 minute mealtime within a six hour work shift, and a 30 minute mealtime within an eight hour work shift”. Keep in mind that these breaks do not need to be paid and this law is only applicable to those that “have at least five employees. And, employers need not provide a meal break if they have fewer than three employees working on a shift”.

    South Carolina

    South Carolina state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    South Dakota

    South Dakota state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Tennessee

    While Tennessee does not require rest breaks, they do require meal breaks. The meal break law in “Tennessee [states], employers must provide a 30-minute break to employees who are scheduled to work at least six consecutive hours”, but cannot be taken within the first hour of working.

    Texas

    Texas state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Utah

    Utah state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Vermont

    In Vermont, “employees are to be given “reasonable opportunities” during work periods to eat and use toilet facilities in order to protect the health and hygiene of the employee”. The law is quite vague as it doesn’t say how long the break should be, when the break can be taken, or how many breaks the employee can be given. If there is something missing or confusing in the Vermont meal and break laws, always follow federal law regulations. 

    Virginia

    Virginia state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Washington

    The state of Washington requires both rest and meal breaks. The law requires a “paid 10-minute rest period for each 4-hour work period, scheduled as near as possible to midpoint of each work period. Employee[s] may not be required to work more than 3 hours without a rest period”. 

    In addition, meal break laws require “½ hour, if [the] work period is more than 5 consecutive hours, to be given not less than 2 hours nor more than 5 hours from [the] beginning of shift. Counted as worktime if [the] employee is required to remain on duty on premises or at a prescribed worksite. Additional ½ hour, before or during overtime, for employees working 3 or more hours beyond [the] regular workday. No employee shall be required to work more than five consecutive hours without a meal period”.

    These laws exclude “newspaper vendor[s] or carrier[s], domestic or casual labor around private residence[s], sheltered workshop[s], and agricultural labor”.

    West Virginia

    West Virginia does not require rest breaks but does require meal breaks. The law states employees “are entitled to take a meal break of at least 20 minutes for each six consecutive hours they work, unless employees are allowed to take breaks as needed or to eat lunch while working. If employees eat while working, they are entitled to be paid for this time”.

    Wisconsin

    While Wisconsin state law does not require employers to provide meal and rest breaks “the state recommends (but does not require) that employers provide a 30-minute meal break, close to the usual meal time or near the middle of the shift. Shifts of more than six hours without a meal break should be avoided”.

    Wyoming

    Wyoming state law does not require meal and rest breaks.

    Now That You’re Up To Date On Meal and Rest Break Compliance Laws By State…

    As previously mentioned, you are not required to provide your employees meal and rest breaks unless there are specific lunch break or work break laws in your state that require this. In addition, just because there may not be any specific law in your state, you are still required to follow all federal laws pertaining to meal and rest breaks. 

    It can be difficult for managers to calculate these breaks and that’s why many companies are investing in technology to help accurately track employee hours and breaks. For peace of mind, industries of all shapes and sizes are working with Connecteam to digitally track and store employee hours and breaks. 

    By doing so, you can be sure that you are in compliance with all federal and state meal and rest break compliance laws. Not to mention, payroll will be a breeze. 

    Lastly, if you don’t provide meal and rest breaks or paid meal and rest breaks, it may be time to do so. Research shows that paid and even unpaid meal breaks and rest breaks increase employee productivity, increase job satisfaction, reduce workplace stress, and reduce absenteeism. 

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