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Meal and Rest Periods: Employer Obligations

An employer require an employee to work for a period of more than five hours without providing an unpaid, off-duty meal period of at least 30 minutes. The first meal period must be provided no later than the end of the employee’s fifth hour of work. If it is provided after the fifth hour of work, the employee is entitled to collect one hour of premium compensation at the employee’s customary hourly rate.

The employer may satisfy its legal obligation to provide an off duty meal period to its employees if it:

  • Relieves its employees of all duty.
  • Relinquishes control over their activities.
  • Permits them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted, 30-minute break.
  • Does not impede or discourage them from doing so.

A meal break can be unpaid only if all of the above conditions are met. If these conditions are not met, the employee shall be entitled to one hour of penalty compensation. Employers routinely fail to adhere to these legal requirements by doing things such as requiring employees to carry pagers during their meal periods and to respond to any and all pages or text messages, requiring their employees to remain on premises during the course of the meal period meal, or interrupting the 30 min. meal period with work-related requests.

If a shift is not more than six hours, the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee. The mutual consent must be voluntarily given and not coerced. For more information on meal and rest period waivers, see Meal and Rest Period: Waivers

Employers must provide a second meal break of no fewer than 30 minutes for all workdays on which an employee works more than 10 hours. The second meal break must be provided no later than the end of an employee’s 10th hour of work.

An employee can waive the second meal period only if all of the following conditions are met:

  • The total hours worked on that workday are not more than 12.
  • You and the employee mutually consent.
  • The first meal break of the workday was not waived.

An employee who works a shift in excess of 10 hours is entitled to take a second meal period.

Employees who believe there are employer has failed to provide them with a full thirty-minute uninterrupted meal period should contact the Law Offices of Daniel Feder immediately. Mr. Feder specializes in representing employees who have been cheated out of their meal periods and breaks.