Meal and rest breaks are considered a standard perk at most workplaces, and yet they’re not actually mandated by federal law. At the federal level, employers are only required to compensate breaks lasting less than 20 minutes, should they choose to provide them (the one exception being nursing breaks for mothers, a minimum level of which are required by federal law -- we’ll cover this more later). It’s actually up to the states themselves to determine if and when employers have to make these breaks available to employees, which means the standards are different all over the country.
Work break laws can be broken down into four major categories based on the people and circumstances they cover:
- Breaks for minors
- Meal breaks
- Rest breaks
- Nursing breaks
While some states have no mandated work breaks, most of them call for employers to provide one or more of the breaks listed above.
Understanding your state’s rest and meal breaks help ensure that you’re fully compliant and properly measuring overtime. And if your business has employees across multiple states, you of course need to make sure you’re meeting each one’s unique standards at your different locations. Below, we’re going to talk about each type of meal and rest break law, explain what it means to your business, and lay out which states it applies to.