The topic of breaks is one that comes up frequently amongst employees. Many have the notion that breaks are the law and that the employer MUST provide employees with two 15-minute break periods per day. This is most certainly not the case; however, many employers do so anyway in accordance with industry (and OSHA) standards.
If employers do voluntarily give rest or meal breaks in states without related law provisions, the breaks are somewhat regulated by the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the FLSA, employers who do have a policy of giving one or more short rest breaks of about 20 minutes or less must pay employees for their time while on such breaks.
The FLSA does not require employers to give rest breaks of any length. But, if employers give short breaks anyway, under the FLSA the breaks are counted as work time for which employers must pay employees. If authorized breaks extend work hours into overtime, under the FLSA employers must pay the overtime to eligible employees.
Under the FLSA, if employers do give meal breaks voluntarily, they do not have to pay employees while they’re on such breaks. However, the breaks must be bona fide meal breaks for employers to be relieved of break pay. For example, an employer who voluntarily offers a daily meal break by policy, but who does not pay employees while they’re on their meal break, must allow employees to take the whole break without working. Otherwise, it is not a meal break under the FLSA. Instead, it counts as work time, for which the employer must pay employees. Employers can’t simply label breaks as meal breaks to evade paying employees while they’re on such breaks. Employers must allow employees to take meal breaks free of work duties.
The 21 states listed below have laws that include some sort of provisions for breaks. Of the 21, only 19 specifically require a rest or meal break for adults, while only 7 specifically require a rest break in addition to a meal break for adults. Vermont nonspecifically requires only “reasonable opportunities to eat and use toilet facilities.”
Review your state requirements to make sure you are in compliance.
“Nobody can be successful unless he loves his work.” ~ David Sarnoff