Are There Laws Regarding Lunch Breaks at Work?

Congress has not passed any laws mandating that employers in the United States must offer breaks or lunch periods for their employees. Employers that provide these benefits, however, must follow federal and state protocols.

Lunch Break Protocols for Employers

Employers who allow breaks of up to 20 minutes are required to pay their employees for that time away from the job. Working through lunch, however, is a different story. In some instances, employers don’t have to pay workers for lunch breaks unless they require specific work to be completed during that time.

The Fair Labor Standards Act has set requirements for how employers pay their non-exempt employees. These workers are paid by the hour and allowed overtime pay over 40 hours per week. The law requires an employer to pay them for all hours worked. If the company’s rules aren’t spelled out, an employer might have to pay an employee for work performed during a meal break even if the work isn’t required by management. Some states have additional rules regarding lunch breaks.

Pitfalls surrounding this situation include:

  • Workers becoming fatigued and not performing at their best
  • Other employees wanting to follow suit for a bigger paycheck

To avoid these pitfalls, employers should implement policies to address when paid lunch breaks are allowed.

Each company is different, so make sure you find the right solution for your company’s unique needs.