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Meal break laws by state

While Federal law does not require meal and rest breaks, some state laws do. Employers must comply with the laws that provide employees the greatest rights and protections.

Meal Break vs. Rest Break 

The distinction between meal and rest breaks is that rest breaks are often shorter in time (less than 20 minutes) and considered paid time.

  • Example: California requires employers provide a paid ten minute rest break to employees who work for 3.5 hours or longer, and California employees are entitled to a paid rest break for every four-hour period.

This article focuses on meal breaks, but rest break requirements also vary by state. Consult specialized employment counsel to ensure you are meeting the rest break requirements within your state.

Meal Break Overview

  • Many states require a meal break around the middle of a non-exempt employee’s workday.

  • Employers usually do not have to pay for these meal breaks as long as the employee is completely relieved of any duties.

    • If an employee is on a meal break but still responsible for work-related tasks, the employee must still be paid for that break.

  • Not tracking meal breaks properly is a common work violation and can be very costly. It can put employers at risk of a wage and hour lawsuit.

States With Meal Break Requirements

The table below includes information about the length of the meal break, when it should be taken, important notes to consider, and Gusto's suggested settings when entering meal break rules for your state.

  • Important: Consult specialized employment counsel to ensure you are meeting the requirements within your state.

This table was last revised July 2019

State Suggested Gusto setting For [X] hours worked in a single workday Minimum duration of rest break Time break must be taken

Notes

(Exempted industries, waivers, etc)

California 30 minute break every 5 hours 5-10 hours 30 minutes Before the end of the 5th hour of the work shift
  • May only be waived if employee works less than 6 hours in a workday. 
  • There are some exempted industries
  10-12 hours

30 minutes (a second meal break)

 
  • Second meal may only be waived if first meal was not waived. 
  • There are some exempted industries.
Colorado 30 minute break every 5 hours 5+ hours 30 minutes  
  • There are some exempted industries
Connecticut 30 minute break every 5 hours and 30 minutes 7.5+ hours 30 minutes Between the first two and last two hours of the work shift
  • There are some exempted industries.
Delaware 30 minute break every 5 hours and 30 minutes 7.5+ hours 30 minutes Between the first two and last two hours of the work shift
  • There are some exempted industries.
Illinois 20 minute break every 5 hours 7.5+ hours 20 minutes Within the first 5 hours of the work shift
  • There are some exempted industries.
Kentucky 30 minute break every 5 hours No minimum hours to trigger a meal break, but the law requires a “reasonable” break. A “reasonable” meal break Between the third hour and fifth hour of the work shift
  • Requirement does not apply to collective bargaining agreements.
  • There are some exempted industries.
Maine 30 minute break every 6 hours 6+ hours 30 minutes  
  • Requirement does not apply to collective bargaining agreements.
  • There are some exempted industries.
Maryland 30 minute break every 6 hours 6+ hours 30 minutes  
  • Only applies to certain retail establishments.
  • There are some exempted industries.
Massachusetts 30 minute break every 6 hours 6+ hours 30 minutes  
  • Employees may voluntarily waive the meal break, but any waiver agreement should be in writing.
Minnesota 30 minute break every 8 hours 8+ hours 30 minutes  
  • Requirement does not apply to collective bargaining agreements
Nebraska -      
  • Employees in some specific industries (e.g. working at an assembling plant) are entitled to a 30+ minute break during each 8 hour shift.
Nevada 30 minute break every 8 hours 8+ hours 30 minutes  
  • Employees may voluntarily waive the meal break, but any waiver agreement should be in writing.
  • Requirement does not apply to collective bargaining agreements.
New Hampshire 30 minute break every 5 hours 5+ hours 30 minutes  
  • Employees may voluntarily waive the meal break, but any waiver agreement should be in writing.
New York 30 minute break every 6 hours 6+ hours 30 minutes  
  • Factory workers have different requirements. 
  • Timing requirements may vary depending on when the shift starts.
North Dakota 30 minute break every 5 hours 5+ hours 30 minutes  
  • Employees may voluntarily waive the meal break, but any waiver agreement should be in writing.
  • Requirement does not apply to collective bargaining agreements.
Oregon 30 minute break every 5 hours 6 - 14 hours 30 minutes
  • If less than 7 hours, between the 2nd and 5th hour. 

  • If more than 7 hours, between the 3rd and 6th  hour.

  • Requirement does not apply to collective bargaining agreements. 
  • There may be extreme situations where an employer is not required to give a meal break.
  14 - 22 hours 30 minutes (a second meal break)  
  22 - 24 hours 30 minutes (a third meal break)  
Rhode Island 30 minute break every 6 hours 6+ hours
  • 20 minutes (if more than 6-8 hours)
  • 30 minutes (if more than 8 hours)
 
  • There are some exempted industries.
Tennessee 30 minute break every 6 hours 6+ hours 30 minutes After the 1st hour of the work shift
  • Employees in certain industries may voluntarily waive the meal break, but any waiver agreement should be in writing.
  • There are some exempted industries.
Utah -      
  • State employees are entitled to a 30 minute unpaid meal break.
Vermont 30 minute break every 6 hours No minimum hours to trigger a meal break, but the law requires employees get a “reasonable opportunity” to eat during a work shift. “Reasonable opportunity” to eat    
Washington 30 minute break every 5 hours 5+ hours 30 minutes Between the 2nd and 5th hour of the work shift
  • Employees may voluntarily waive the meal break, but waiver agreements should be in writing.
  • There are additional meal break requirements during overtime hours.
West Virginia 20 minute break every 6 hours 6+ hours 20 minutes    

 

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