button Vol. 5
No. 3
Winter 1999

line INSIDE line

Workplace Romance -
How About a "Love Contract"?
line 'Right to Organize'
- THE Hot Labor Issue To Test Candidates in the Year 2000, Says Sweeney
line Disgruntled Workers Air Corporate 'Dirty Laundry'
on Internet World Wide Web Sites
line Supreme Court Rulings and ADA, 1999 Review
line Answers about Employee Break Periods
line BCG Has a New Address! line Briefs

Braun Consulting News
News on Personnel, Labor Relations and Benefits

See our Archive Pages for Back Issues of Braun Consulting News!

button Answers to Common Questions
About Employee Break Periods

1. Are employees entitled to set breaks?

Whether and how often breaks need to be provided is typically controlled by state statutes; the federal FLSA does not require that meal or rest periods be provided.

For example, California wage orders provide a 30-minute meal period after five consecutive hours of work and a 10-minute rest period for each four hours of working time for employees in certain industries. Employers in Minnesota must provide an adequate break every four consecutive hours of work for employees to use a restroom.

2. When must these breaks be provided?

Again, state law controls. For example, in Connecticut, employees who work seven and one-half or more consecutive hours are entitled to at least 30 consecutive minutes for a meal. The meal period must be scheduled at least two hours after the workday begins and at least two hours before it ends. If your state does not mandate it, a good rule of thumb is to provide the break in the middle of each work period.

3. Do breaks need to be paid?

The FLSA requires that "rest periods of short duration, running from five to about 20 minutes ... promote the efficiency of employees and are customarily paid for as working time." Any breaks longer than 20 minutes during which employees may go where they please and are completely relieved of their duties are not considered hours worked under the Act.

4. What if employees work through their lunches voluntarily?

Non-exempt employees must be paid for that time. The FLSA makes clear that "work not requested but suffered or permitted is work time."

5. Can employees be prevented from taking frequent smoke breaks?

Since employers are not required to provide smoke breaks, chances are, you can prohibit employees from taking them.

(Answers courtesy of Personnel Legal Alert by Alexander Hamilton Institute, Inc.)

Remember that each state also regulates work time.

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