Labor Law Information Resource Center
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines the meal (lunch) period lasting at least 30 minutes and not 20 minutes or less. Breaks less than 20 minutes are rest breaks and not considered a meal/lunch break.
A true lunch break is when the employee is completely relieved from all work duty for the purpose of eating regular meals. The employee is not relieved if he/she is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating.
Several states require employers to provide a meal (lunch) break of at least 30 minutes for employees who work more than 5 or 6 hours at a time. A few states require employers to provide a second 30-minute (minimum) lunch break for employees that work more than 10 hours in a work day. The second lunch break can be waived by mutual consent of the employee/employer as long as the first lunch period was not waived. Some states have restrictions on when a meal break is taken.
Employers are not required to pay you meal/lunch break time unless you have to work through your lunch break. The federal department of labor, called the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), explains that the typical meal/lunch break is not considered work time and is not compensable (not paid).
If an employee is not relieved of their work duties during their lunch break, that time is considered work time and must be paid.
A non-duty meal period is counted as time worked and permitted only when the nature of the work prevents relief from all duties and there is written agreement between parties. Employee may revoke this agreement at any time.
According to the federal labor law, employers are not required to provide a lunch break.
However, your state labor law may require a minimum lunch break. Providing employees meal and rest breaks depends on your state labor law. Employers need to be aware of their state labor laws to make sure they are in compliance.
More than half of the states require a minimum of 30 minutes for a meal (lunch) break for employees that work more than 5-6 hours a day.
Some states have an exception if the workday will be completed in 6 hours or less and there is a mutual employer/employee consent the meal period can be waived. Also, some states prohibit employers from giving this time off near the beginning or end of their work shift.
Some state laws require employees to take a minimum of 30 minutes for a meal break if they work more than a 6-hour work shift. Employees are required to follow their employer's company policy for not completing a full lunch break. Some employers do not want their employees to return to work before completing their full break period.
To look up what your state law requires for the minimum meal break, click on the button below:
Q. My employer is not allowing me to take a meal period. Is there anything I can do about this situation?
Yes, there is something you can do if you are covered by the meal period requirements of the law. If your employer fails to provide the required meal period, you are to be paid one hour of pay at your regular rate of compensation (this is referred to as meal period premium pay) for each workday that the meal period is not provided. If your employer fails to pay the additional one-hour's pay, you may file a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. [Learn More]
Q. If there is bona fide relief from all duty during a meal period and the employer relinquishes all control over the employee’s activities, but the employee then freely chooses to continue working, is the employer liable for meal period premium pay?
No, the employer would not be liable for meal period premium pay where there is bona fide relief from duty and relinquishment of employer control (and no discouragement or coercion from the employer against taking the meal period). However, in this circumstance, an employer that knows or has reason to know an employee is performing work during the meal period owes compensation to the employee for the time worked (including any overtime hours that have accrued as a result of working through the meal period). See Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004. [Learn More]
How are salary employees compensated for lunch?
Exempt employees are not required to take a lunch break or get rest breaks under california law. Employers may require salary employees to clock in and out to record hours worked.
Federal Labor Law
Lunch and Rest Breaks
Under State Law for Adult Employees
in Private Sector
STATE Maximum Hours Before Lunch Break Required Length of Lunch Break Maximum Hours Before Rest Break Required Length of Rest Break California 5 30 minutes Each 4 hour work period or major fraction thereof 10 minutes Colorado 5 30 minutes Midway through each 4 hour work period or major fraction thereof 10 minutes Connecticut If working at least 7.5 consecutive hours: After 1st two hours, before last two hours 30 minutes N/A N/A Delaware If working at least 7.5 consecutive hours: After 1st two hours, before last two hours 30 minutes N/A N/A Illinois For employees who work 7 ½ hours or more, after 5 hours At least 20 minutes Break rules appear to apply only to hotel room attendants N/A Kentucky Between 3rd and 5th hour of work. Ordinarily 30 minutes Within each 4 hour block of work time 10 minutes Maine 6 consecutive hours 30 minutes N/A N/A Maryland 6 consecutive hours 30 minutes N/A N/A Massachusetts 6 consecutive hours 30 minutes N/A N/A Minnesota Sufficient unpaid time for employees who work 8 consecutive hours or more Not stated Within each 4 consecutive hours of work Not stated Nebraska Within each 8-hour shift 30 minutes N/A N/A Nevada During 8 continuous hours 30 minutes Each 4 hours worked or major fraction thereof 10 minutes New York Noon-day period 60 minutes N/A N/A North Dakota After 5 hours 30 minutes N/A N/A Oregon Less than 7 hours: between 2nd & 5th hour; more than 7 hours, between 3rd & 6th hour 30 minutes Every 4-hour segment or major portion thereof 10 minutes Rhode Island Up to 6 hours
N/A N/A Tennessee 6 or more consecutive hours 30 minutes N/A N/A Vermont Employees are to be given “reasonable opportunities” during work periods to eat & use toilet facilities Not stated Employees are to be given “reasonable opportunities” during work periods to eat & use toilet facilities Not stated Washington 5 consecutive hours 30 minutes For each 4-hour work period, to be scheduled as near as possible to midpoint of each work period 10 minutes West Virginia 5 consecutive hours 30 minutes N/A N/A Guam 5 30 minutes N/A N/A Puerto Rico After end of 3rd but before beginning of 6th consecutive hour 60 minutes N/A N/A
Other states: Alabama, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas
This table is intended to provide a quick overview of various state laws regarding meal & rest breaks. Since almost every state has a variety of rules for different jobs & industries, Shift2Work recommends that employers reference the specific Labor Laws for their state.
1. States not listed do not require paid rest periods. All of the nine states with paid rest period requirements also have meal period requirements.
2. Different rules apply for hotel room attendants.
3. Shorter time period permitted under special conditions.
4. Federal Law states that under 20 minutes is a rest break; 21+ minutes is a lunch break. Check specific statute for Minnesota.
5. A number of different rules apply - check specific statutes for New York.
6. Federal Law states that under 20 minutes is a rest break; 21+ minutes is a lunch break. Check specific statute for Vermont.
7. Washington State. Although agricultural labor is excluded from the listed requirement of general application, a separate regulation requires a paid 10-minute rest period in each 4-hour period of agricultural employment.
Not displayed in table are exemptions for executive, administrative and professional employees, and for outside salespersons.
U.S. Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
Department of Labor - Lunch Break State Requirements
Department of Labor - Rest Breaks State Requirements
Shift2Work tries to ensure that the information provided on these pages is accurate but makes no guarantee thereof. Individuals should consult their particular state labor office for official information.