An employer cannot employ someone for a work period of more than five hours without providing an unpaid, off-duty meal period of at least 30 minutes. The meal break must begin no later than 4 hours and 59 minutes into a nonexempt employee’s shift. When a work period of not more than six hours will complete the day’s work, the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee.
The duty to provide a meal break is an affirmative duty on the part of the employer that must meet the above requirements; it is more than simply making the meal break available. How these requirements are satisfied may “vary from industry to industry.”
Employers are not required to ensure that no work is done during a properly provided meal period. The employer is required to relinquish control over the employee’s time.
During the meal period, employees must be free to come and go as they please and be free to leave the premises.
Employers must authorize and permit paid rest periods for all nonexempt employees whose total daily work time is at least 3.5 hours. These mandatory rest breaks must be offered at the rate of 10 “net” minutes for every four hours worked, or “major fraction thereof.”
Anything more than two hours is considered to be a “major fraction” of four hours.1 In the typical eight-hour workday, an employee is entitled to receive at least two 10-minute rest breaks.
Employers should generally provide rest breaks in the middle of each work period. Deviations from this general scheduling may be permissible in certain circumstances.