HR Q&A Continued: Are Employees Entitled To Meal Breaks?

Based on the response to last week’s HR Tip of the Week regarding employee rest breaks, tackling meal break requirements in the same states seemed like a good follow-up.

Question: As an employer, am I required to provide meal breaks to my employees and if so, for how long and are they paid?

Answer:  There is no federal law entitling employees to a meal break, but many states have laws requiring employers to provide some sort of paid/unpaid time off during the work day.

Minnesota: sufficient time to eat a meal must be provided to employees who work eight or more consecutive hours.  Statutory language suggests that 30 minutes or more is ordinarily long enough for a meal period.  If the meal break is for less than 20 minutes or the employee continues to work while eating his or her meal, that time must be counted as hours worked for non-exempt hourly employees.

Illinois: state law requires an employee who works 7.5 continuous hours or more shall be provided at least 20 minutes for a meal break to occur no later than 5 hours after the employee begins work.

New York: state law distinguishes between factory and non-factory worker meal breaks.  Factory workers are entitled to a 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 6 hours starting between 1:00 p.m. and 6 a.m. and lasting more than 6 hours. Non-factory workers are entitled to 30 minute lunch breaks between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. for shifts 6 hours or longer that extend over that period and a 45 minute meal break at the time midway between the beginning and the end of the shift for all shifts of more than 6 hours starting between 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. For both categories of workers, meal periods are unpaid and, in some circumstances, meal breaks can be shortened to 30 minutes unless such a shortened period would create a hardship.  Further, all workers are also entitled to 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.

Massachusetts: state law requires that employers provide employees with an unpaid, 30 minute meal break during each work shift that lasts more than 6 hours. This break would be paid if a worker agrees to work or stay at the workplace during the meal break.

Texas: similar to rest breaks, employers are not required to provide employees with a meal break, but many choose to do so anyway.  Under federal law, meal breaks for 30 minutes or more can be unpaid if the employee is completely relieved of work-related duties during that break.    

California: if an employee works over 5 hours in a day, that employee is entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes within the first 5 hours of the employee’s shift.  If the employee continues to work during his or her meal break or the employee is required to stay on the employer’s premises during the meal period (even if they are not working), then that time is paid.  If an employee works over 10 hours in a day, he or she is entitled to a second meal break of at least 30 minutes to be taken before the 10th hour of the employee’s shift.  If there is mutual consent between the employee and employer, an employee working 6 hours or less can waive their meal breaks.  If an employee works no more than 12 hours in a day, he or she can agree to waive only their second lunch break (not their first).  

If you have additional questions regarding employee meal break requirements in your region, or any other HR questions, please contact your Thompson Coe attorney at (651) 389-5000 or at myHRgenius@thompsoncoe.com.  You can also find helpful information and previous HR tips at https://thehrgenius.com/.

 
 
Thompson Coe’s Tips of the Week are not intended as a solicitation, do not constitute legal advice and do not establish an attorney-client relationship.
Kevin Mosher