Employee Breaks – Federal Law

While some states have specific laws with regard to employee breaks, this post just takes a look at the Department of Labor’s view – or your federal government.

There is no federal law requiring breaks. However, there are guidelines for breaks and whether employees should be paid for time on break. For example, for breaks under 20 minutes, the Department of Labor considers that to be time that an employee should be paid for. In other words, the government feels that a break should be atleast 20 minutes before an employer can consider deducting from an employee’s pay.

The Department of Labor (DOL) says that “bona fide meal periods (typically lasting atleast 30 minutes)” are not considered work time and should not be compensated.

Many employees who have contacted us over the years mention that they get a 15 minute break or two 15 minute breaks each shift. The 20 minute benchmark comes into play for these employees and you can see why these types of short breaks are considered time clocked in.

When it comes to the 30 minute or longer meal breaks, an employee should not get paid if a break goes longer than expected or authorized by the company, according to the DOL.

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