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What Laws Cover Meal and Break Times

March 11, 1999
Related Topics: Staffing and the Law, Featured Article
In general, federal law does not require employers to provide rest or meal breaks for employees, although OSHA is considering rewriting its rules that require bathroom facilities to include provisions allowing employees reasonable access to the bathrooms. Any requirement to provide breaks to employees generally comes from state law. Approximately twenty-six states have laws requiring that employees be provided with certain meal or break periods: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania (depending on the employee's age), Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

In general, federal wage-hour laws require that rest periods of twenty minutes or less be counted as time worked under the minimum wage and overtime laws. Bona fide meal periods of thirty minutes or more need not be counted as hours worked and therefore are not compensable, provided that the employee is completely relieved of duty.

Source: Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Nelson & Schneider, P.C., Atlanta, GA, January 1999. Phone: 404/365-0900.

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