Most of us are used to taking time off for lunch or at least a rest break during the workday. This “off time” allows us to catch our breath, get something to eat, and re-energize for the rest of the workday. But did you know that mandatory meal or rest breaks vary from state to state?
Federal Law and Breaks
Many employees (and employers as well) would be surprised to know that under federal law, employees do NOT have an automatic right to a lunch or rest break during the workday. On the surface, it makes good business sense to provide such breaks, as employees who are exhausted or hungry can’t always give a positive impression of the business to customers, but federal law does not require it.
When an employer allows breaks, however, the break time must be paid. This includes time designated as a lunch or rest break lasting from five to 20 minutes. Such intervals are considered part of the workday and must be compensated.
Connecticut State Law and Breaks
State law is different. Connecticut is one of 19 states that require employees to provide 30 minutes of unpaid break time if an employee has worked at least seven and a half consecutive hours during their shift. The law also specifies that this break should occur at least two hours after they report for work and at least two hours before their shift ends.
During this time, the employee must be completely relieved of their duties: eating lunch at one’s desk while continuing to work does not count. If an employer does not want to offer this lunch break, it must provide at least 30 minutes of paid breaks instead.
There are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, itt does not apply to:
- Professional employees (e.g. teachers) who work with children in a school district
- Workplaces where the collective bargaining agreement specifies other arrangements
- Workplaces where there are no more than five employees on shift at one time
In these situations, an employee may be given an on-duty, paid meal break.
With so many variables, it is not unusual for employees and employers alike to be confused about their rights and responsibilities with regards to meal or rest breaks. If you work or operate a business in Connecticut and are unsure about how the law applies to your particular situation, contact Monarch Law. We will advise you on what breaks you may be entitled to or how to keep your workplace compliant with the law.