Work breaks seem like something that all employers should provide. But how many states mandate a work break? In this article, we’ll dive deeper into lunch break laws in the United States.

Breaks at Work: Meal and Rest Breaks

Meal breaks are quick breaks that the employees take to have their lunch or go for an evening snack. However, rest breaks are small leaves from work that an employee takes to unwind and break the monotony of work. 

Federal labor law breaks 8-hour days to ensure that the employees get proper breaks in between their work. A company, hence, needs to figure out how many breaks in an 8-hour shift they can afford to give their employees. 

Different companies have different policies for breaks at work. While some companies might provide a lunch break after 5 hours of work, others might have no lunch break.

The number of breaks also depends on the industry for which you are working. Remote jobs generally follow a system of a working lunch where there is no concept of lunch breaks. They expect employees to have an on-the-go lunch during their virtual meetings and work calls.

Labor Laws for Underage Workers

Several states have different laws that govern an underage workforce. The federal government does this to incentivize workers who are just starting out and also because minors do deserve special exemptions. For instance, in Delaware, the employees get a 30 minutes break for every 7.5 hours of continuous work. However, underage workers get a 30 minutes break for every five hours of work.

In some states, there is a distinction between minors who are below 18 years and those who are below 15 years. You can get in touch with your state labor department to understand the laws governing breaks at work for minors in the United States of America. 

Lunch Break Laws in US states

The United States of America is a vast country. There are 50 states, and all of these states have a specialized set of jobs and employment opportunities. Therefore, applying holistic work break laws across countries would not be possible.

All of the states in the US have different laws governing rest breaks. The definition of breaks at work that an employee can take depends on the specific state’s laws. Therefore, if you decide to relocate to a different city in the US, you must refer to various laws that govern the rest and lunch breaks. Listed below are the break policies of some states in the US:

Texas Labor Laws Break Policies

Texas is one of those countries where breaks at work are not mandatory. However, if the employee needs a break, paid 15-minute breaks are available. During this period of 20-30 minutes, the employees can have their lunch. However, if the employees complete their work before the break, they will not be paid for it.

California Lunch Law

California break laws have a provision where the employees are entitled to a 30-minute break after working for five consecutive hours. If you are trying to get an answer to how many hours an employee can work without a break, it is five hours in the case of California.

In California, the companies follow a basic standard of providing a half-hour break for meals for more than 5 hours of work. However, suppose on an unusual day or a working weekend, when all the work gets completed within 6 hours, employees can mutually agree to waive off the lunch break to increase productivity.  

Companies count mealtime as a part of work time during workdays, and as an employee, you will receive the payment for the same. You cannot make an employee work for more than 10 hours in California without giving them two breaks.

Florida Labor Laws Break Policies

In the case of employees under the age of 18, the law provides a break of at least 30 minutes for every 4 hours of consecutive work. However, for employees above 18, there are no work break laws that govern the lunch and meal breaks for them.

In Florida, an employee can take a paid break of about 20-30 minutes. Employers do not need to pay if the employee has completed all of his duties for the day. Employers can only waive off the second meal break with a mutual agreement between the employer and the employee.

Illinois Lunch Break Law

Non-exempt employees in Illinois can take a break only if they work for at least 7.5 hours continuously. The break can be of at least 20 minutes. The employee can avail of the leave or break after continuous work for about five hours. The leave or the lunch break will be unpaid if the employee decides to take a break before five hours. 

Some employers have different break policies. Therefore, employers should try and define the number of breaks beforehand to avoid any confusion. The 5-hour policy excludes those employees who take a group and collectively bargain for a break.

The number of breaks at work changes if the employee faces some co-morbidities and has furnished the necessary proof. If the employees have any disability, they can reach out to their employer to negotiate the terms of their breaks.

Breaks at Work in Colorado

Most companies in Colorado give meal breaks to all of their employees irrespective of their age. If you work for five consecutive hours, you get a break of 30 minutes to revive and refresh yourself. 

The mealtime that an employee receives is a part of the work time, and employees receive a payment for those 30 minutes of break. However, if the job ends, the employees cannot claim any pay for their leave after completing their work.

These laws and breaks at work policies are applicable across retail, service, foods and beverages, commercial support service, health, medical industry, etc. The uniformity makes it easy for employees to understand these laws and switch industries within the state.

However, the breaks at work policies do not cover employees from some sectors, such as administrative executives, babysitters, etc. You could find this type of break exemption in the unorganized sector where there is no job clarity, and the employees can be called for work anytime.

Connecticut Break Laws

Connecticut is a hub of several corporate giants. The breaks that an employee can take here are pretty flexible. For instance, if the total working hours in a company is 7.5 hours. In that case, the employees can take 30 minutes to break after working for 2 hours continuously. 

Employees can also take a leave or a break 2 hours before the job ends. Some professional employees who come under the State Board of Education cannot avail of these breaks as they already have a 30 minutes break provision within every 7.5 hours of employment.

No federal laws define the number of breaks at work in Connecticut. Still, if the employer decides to go ahead with a 20 or a 30 minutes rest period, the employer should pay for the break. In this case, the employer cannot deduct any money from the total salary of the employees for availing of these breaks. 

Breaks in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, the employees can take 30 minutes to break from work if they are required to work for more than 6 hours on a regular day. 

However, people who work in ironworks, glassworks,  paper mills, letter print establishments, and others do not come under the purview of this 30 minutes break policy. They can take breaks in line with the guidelines that their employer has in place. These employees can also get into a collective bargaining agreement and present their case to the state’s attorney general if they want to have a regular leave policy at work due to some special circumstances.

Breaks at Work in Minnesota

People working in Minnesota can take unpaid breaks from their work if they have worked for around eight consecutive hours or more. However, suppose the employees take a break of fewer than 20 minutes. In that case, the employers must not reduce the break period from the working hours. 

Employers pay their employees for those 20 minutes. This is to support the employees who want to grab a quick snack or take a short walk around their workspace. However, the 20 minutes break policy is not applicable for some agricultural employees and seasonal workers.

Meal Breaks in Nevada

Nevada is known to have a flexible work culture. The employees are allowed to take a 30 minutes meal break or a rest break in between their work if asked to work for more than eight continuous hours. This break policy is applicable in any company where the number of employees is two or more. Therefore, this means that all the companies in Nevada come under this policy. 

However, this policy excludes those employees who come under any collective bargaining agreement.

FAQs on Breaks at Work

How many breaks at work are mandated by law?

Breaks form a very integral part of any profession irrespective of whether you are working for a public or a private organization. The labor laws primarily define breaks at work. An employer has to follow the labor laws that the US government mandates. The work break laws govern the number of leaves an employee can take.

Can I be forced to take a lunch break?

In states that have no rules on giving breaks to the employees, no one can force the employee to take a break. It is dependent on the employee if they want to take a paid leave or finish the work and then leave.

How many breaks are there in a 10-hour shift in California? 

Several employees work for about 10 hours or more than 10 hours in different companies based in California. Therefore, when the employees perform the 10-hour shift in a company, they are entitled to a break every five hours. 

However, the employees might have to work after their 2nd break if they are not relieved of their duties. Federal lunch break laws in California only allow you to take ‘on duty’ meal breaks if the nature of work prevents the employee from leaving the employer’s premises before finishing the job.

Are Breaks at Work Laws where They should be in the United States?

Meals and rest breaks are important factors that employees might consider before deciding the US state from where they want to work. For instance, if they have any health ailments that might affect their performance at the workplace. In that case, they need to consider the break laws and related policies before making a decision.  Alternatively, they can also contact their employer to understand if their case could come under any special provisions to avail themselves of necessary breaks.

Many employers have decided to provide rest or meal breaks to their employees to keep them motivated. Also, they do not want to overburden their employees by work. So, they give a few breaks at work to send a message to the employees that they care, and they want them to feel at ease while working in their organization.

However, some employees might take undue advantage of the fact and extend their breaks. Any extension to the break that is allowed by the employer will be unpaid. The employees should be aware of how they are using their privileges in the workplace. Your employee is not mandated to pay you for your work breaks unless:

  • The state has made it mandatory for employers to pay people for the rest breaks they take
  • Employees are having a working lunch or are working through their breaks
  • The duration of the break is not more than 20 minutes

Ensure that the breaks you provide to your employees are not violating any state laws in place. As an employer, it is your responsibility to make the best out of your employees’ capabilities. Motivated and rested employees perform better. Therefore, if there is a leave policy in your state, you should try and transfer the benefits to your employees. 

Suppose you do not have any similar policy in place. In that case, you should try and give your employees at least a 20 minutes break to take a quick coffee break and then get back to work.