BPHR’s Director Lisa Salcido, SPHR, SHRM-SCP provides actionable answers to your pressing HR questions.
Question: When are breaks and lunch required to be paid?
Answer: Pauses in the work day are defined as: meal periods-at least 30 minutes long and rest breaks-under 20 minutes. Federal law does not require employers to provide meal periods or rest breaks, except for nursing mothers. New Jersey state law does not require employers to provide meal periods or rest breaks, except for workers younger than 18 years old. If you choose to offer rest breaks and/or meal periods, here is when non-exempt employees should be paid:
When employers offer short breaks, federal law considers these breaks as compensable and they must be counted as hours worked towards overtime requirements. When your employees take fewer than 20 minutes for coffee, the restroom, smoking etc, they must be paid.
When employers choose to offer a meal period, it’s generally not considered work time under federal law and therefore is not compensable. However, the meal period must allow the employee to be completely relieved from work duties. If employees are performing any work during this period, whether active (reading email, answering the phone) or inactive, such as just being required to eat at a workstation, they must be paid.
For example, if a Receptionist is required to eat lunch at her desk to be available for visitors, you’d have to pay her for the entire meal period, even if no visitors arrive. If an employee voluntarily answered work emails from their personal phone while in Starbucks, you are still obligated to track and pay for their time.
To prevent federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and overtime violations, have a clear-cut meal and break policy in your Handbook and frequently monitor employees to be sure they are not working during unpaid time.
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DISCLAIMER: The material presented on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion