Meals and Breaks

Barkan Meizlish , May 14, 2015

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to provide breaks or meal periods to workers. However, specific rules apply to employers who choose to do so: Employees must be paid for breaks lasting 20 minutes or less. Employers may deduct pay for meal periods only if the break takes 30 minutes or more, so long as the employee is completely free from job duties during this time. Meal time must be uninterrupted, thus employers may not deduct pay from employees who choose to take four 15 minute breaks rather than a single lunch hour. Employers are not required to pay for unauthorized extensions of work breaks so long as the employer expressly communicates 1) the specific period of time for the break, 2) that an extension of the break is contrary to the employer’s rules, and 3) that the employee will be punished for any extension of the break.

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