Give Me a Break!
People who work for nice, considerate employers may take certain privileges for granted, and even assume these privileges are rights. For example, if you are allowed to leave your work area to visit the restroom whenever you choose, you are enjoying a privilege, because this is something you do not have the right to do via the federal government. The federal government does not require employers to give employees breaks at work, including bathroom breaks, lunch breaks, and rest periods. There are only two basic regulations for your breaks from work:
1) Break periods of 5 to 20 minutes are compensable; for example, if your employer allows you to take a 10-minute snack break, he must pay you for those ten minutes. A break of 30 minutes or more, usually for lunch, are not compensable. If your employer allows to you take 30 minutes or more off from work during your hours, he does not have to pay you for the time.
2) Employers have to give employees access to bathroom facilities, meaning that there must be a restroom for workers to use. There is no requirement regarding how often or when an employee will be permitted to use the restroom.
While the federal government is hands-off regarding breaks for workers, some states have stepped up to help employees get reasonable breaks from work. The laws vary by state.
Vermont and Minnesota simply require employers to give employees enough time to use the restroom.
California, Colorado, Kentucky, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington require a short break, such as ten minutes, for every specified hours of work. For example, in California you should get a ten minute, paid rest break for every four hours of work.
Fewer than half of the 50 states require employers to offer a meal break of at least a half an hour for every specified number of hours worked. Meal breaks are not compensated. You can check your state’s meal break laws at the United States Department of Labor website.
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