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Feb04

Texas Break Laws

Is there any federal law that a Texas employer must give coffee breaks or meal breaks to workers?

Texas has no state or federal law requiring employers to provide their workers with rest or coffee breaks.  The FLSA, or Fair Labor Standards Act, does, however, require that employees be paid for all breaks that are less than 20 minutes.

 However, under state law, workers over the age of 16 are entitled to a 30 minute meal break, when they work 7 ½ hours or more. The break must fall 2 hours after the start of the shift, and 2 hours before the end of the shift.   Georgia, Utah, North Carolina, Arizona, Alaska, Texas, Texas, and Florida have absolutely no break laws.  There are many other states with the same policy.  In these states, employers can require their employees to work a full day without taking any breaks.  This ruling applies even if an employee is scheduled to work for 16 hours or more.    A few states, specifically California and Oregon, have laws that require most every employee to receive rest and meal breaks on a regular basis.  This includes one meal break per shift. Some of the rules regarding breaks are different when it comes to underage workers.  For instance, many states require meal breaks for employees who are under 18, while almost all states require meal breaks for workers under 16.  Such regulations fall under the child labor laws in each state. Research has shown that employees are more productive during their shifts when they are allowed to have breaks.  The most common structure is for employers to provide two 15-minute rest breaks, as well as one 30-minute meal break, during an eight-hour shift.  Each 15-minute break, according to federal law, has to be paid. 

Some exceptions to these rules might involve union contracts that contain clauses specifying breaks, as well as payments, for them. In situations where employees must be available for work during their meal breaks, they must be paid for that time.  For example, a receptionist who eats at her desk so that she can be available to answer the phone if it rings has to be paid for that time.  This applies whether or not the phone happens to ring, and even if the receptionist is not working during that period. JH 

This entry was posted on Monday, February 4th, 2008 at 2:01 pm and is filed under
Benefits, Performance Management.
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51 Responses to “Texas Break Laws”

  1. melissa Says:

    Is there a law or policy procedure to follow in the event an employee smells like alcohol

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Melissa, as you might suppose, this is a touchy issue. If the employer has a policy of unannounced drug tests already in place, the employer can require the employee to take a drug test. That will show if the employee is under the influence of alcohol at work. The supervisor can also discuss the situation with the employee — some workers will readily admit they had a drink, or a few beers before work. Or there may be a witness to the employee’s use of alcohol during work hours. Most employers have a policy in place that prohibits this, and could take disciplinary action — but only if the employee confesses, or tests positive for alcohol or there is a witness. In other words, you need proof, not just a suspicion.

    What if the company has no drug testing policy in place, there is no witness and the employee doesn’t confess? In that case, the employer probably can’t prove that the worker is under the influence of alcohol at work. But it’s likely that being under the influence will affect the employee’s job performance. You are probably better off addressing the performance problem, in that case.

    Ultimately Texas is an employment at will state, and as an employer you have the legal right to fire a worker “for no reason at all.” It would probably be better to do so, than to make allegations that you can’t prove (if you want to get rid of this employee.)

  3. Tracy Says:

    Is there any state or federal law requiring a minimum amount of hours off between shifts?

  4. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Tracy! There is no Texas or federal law that requires a certain number of hours between shifts. In Texas, an employee’s shift could end at 12 midnight, and the employee could be scheduled to return to work at 1 am.
    A few states have such a law, but Texas is not one of them. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  5. Sarah Says:

    I’m planning on a big move from Maine to Texas. I was wondering if there are any major differences that I should be aware of that Texas would have or not have as opposed to Maine. I saw the above one about no length of time between shifts, yes that is one that is different. Thanks!

  6. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Sarah! Thanks for posting an excellent question. Many people fail to realize that when they move to another state, the employment laws may be completely different. Texas generally has fewer employment laws that favor the employee, than Maine does.
    The minimum wage in Texas is the same as the federal minimum wage: $6.55 per hour. It will increase to $7.25 per hour with the federal minimum wage on July 24, 2009. The minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.13 per hour. There is no break law in Texas, so employees can be required to work 12 or more hours without a meal or rest break (although most Texas employers do give breaks.) Texas has a law requiring that employees be paid on payday, and a law that requires employers to keep the employees social security confidential from anyone outside the company.
    In Texas as in other states, employers are required to display labor law posters. You would be well advised to spend a few minutes reading the posters in your new workplace, so you are up on all the state labor laws. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  7. Catalina Says:

    I work at a bank. There have been times that I work 5 hrs without a break. I actually took a break for a day that required me to work 6 hrs without one. I was told to take it off my schedule work time. I only took a 15 minute break. Should I have gotten paid for it? Should I have taken a break.

  8. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Catalina! Texas has no state or federal law that requires employers to give workers a meal break, or even a shorter rest break. This is true, even if the shift is 12 hours or more.
    OSHA worker safety standards require that employees be permitted to use the bathroom when nature calls.
    Under federal law, if you take a break that is less than 20 minutes long, you should be paid for it. HTH, and thanks for reading the blog!~ Caitlin

  9. STEVEN Says:

    Q:1-Can the Texas employer force the employees to take meal break (3o minutes) since most of the coworkers do not want to take break and they just want to work 8 hours and go home, moreover, this is not a paid break.
    Q:2-Can the Texas employer put you to work on the paid holidays, e.g.New Year/Christmas then give you another day off at the same week with paid?

  10. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Steven! The answer to both questions is “yes”. The Texas employer can require that each employee take an unpaid 30-minute break, and fire any employee who does not. There is not law that requires employers to give workers paid holidays. If the company does offer paid holidays, they can require that some employees work on those days and take another day off during the week, with pay. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  11. Darlene Says:

    What information can be provided for employees who work under civil service who were disciplined for taking a break? (breakfast)

  12. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Darlene! We can’t provide information for specific employers, but there is no break law in Texas. The employer can set whatever rules they like about breaks, as long as the rules apply to all employees fairly. If this is a day shift employee, many employers would have a problem with the employee taking a break soon after coming to work. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  13. mary Says:

    Texas At-Will- Employment as far as salaried employee if employer don’t have written policy about “you must take lunch” then the employee pretty much make a choice if they want to go to lunch right?

    Or on another hand, our emmployer asked all salaried employees to clock in and out, so if employee does not clock in and out that mean employer can fire the employee, right? (There was a written memo about clock in and out) Please clarify.

    Other question; if employees are skills trade but my boss made them salary, is that right?

  14. Caitlin Says:

    Hi mary!There are a number of issues here.
    First of all, an employer can enforce a policy that is not in writing. In fact, almost every employer has some company policies that are not in writing. (Think about the policy that you don’t wear your bikini or Speedo to work.) As long as the policy is enforced fairly and consistently,to avoid illegal discrimination, it is lawful. So, yes, the employer can establish a policy that employees must take a lunch break and discipline or terminate any employee who does not. This is true in every state, not just Texas.
    By the same token, an employer can require that all employees — even those who are paid on salary — clock in and out. Again, the employer can discipline or terminate any employee who does not.
    The employer can put workers on a salary to make it easier to figure payroll. However, employees in the skiled trades are still entitled to overtime when they work more than 40 hours per week, under the federal FLSA. Only employees with certain duties (such as executives, outside sales people, managers) are exempt from overtime. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  15. mark Says:

    heres my wifes situation,

    she gets paid week to week, and is an hourly employee, most of the days she works, she is by herself, and cannot take a break so she works her intire shift, with out taking a break which is usally 6-8 hours now at the end of the week the manager that does the payroll, goes through all the time cards, and for each employee on each day she checks to see if you clocked out for a break if you did not they deduct 15 minutes from your time. my question would be can they do this. if the employee is working the entire shift not taking a break, can they deduct time from her. and if the company has a policy to take a break, then she needs to take that break and not do any work, thanks for any help you can provide.

  16. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Mark! You are correct — if the employee works the entire shift without taking a break, the employer must pay her for all the time she works. They cannot automatically deduct 15 minutes.
    If the employer has more than $500,000 in revenue or engages in out of state commerce (for example, by accepting credit cards), under the federal FLSA, an employee must be paid for any breaks shorter than 20 minutes — so the 15 minute deduction would not be lawful, even if your wife actually took the break.
    You are correct that the employer can require that your wife take a break during the shift. The employer can also require that if a customer comes in, your wife return from break and take care of the customer. However, when that happens your wife is entitled to payment for the entire time if her break was less than 20 minutes. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  17. Confused Says:

    Hello, I just moved to Texas from New York a few weeks ago. I have read everything you have written regarding breaks but what if the employee is pregnant? Are there any laws pertaining to a situation like this?

  18. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Confused! We can completely understand your confusion — you have just moved from the state with the most complex, industry-specific break laws to a state with no break law whatsoever.
    No, there is not an exception under Texas law for an employee who is pregnant. OSHA regulations require that employees be permitted to use the restroom when nature calls, and to drink water at their work station during hot weather. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  19. Lane Says:

    I worked for a company in TX for 2 years. During that time my shifts were always 8-10 hours without a break. In the employee handbook it says we can take 2 15 min. breaks and a 30 min break. But, I never got one. Is this company in any type of violation?

  20. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Lane! As long as the company was paying you for all the hours you worked, no, they were not in violation of any law. The manager may have been in violation of company policy, but that is not in itself illegal. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  21. Diane Says:

    I work in a little retail store where we generally work by ourselves all the time. My manager wants us to leave the front door unlocked for restroom breaks that we take and have to run to the front of the store is someone comes in. Is this right?

  22. Dawn Says:

    Hi we have a policy in place that the plant workers are to be here at 7:55 am for a safety meeting. Seems like a few of them do not want to cooperate with this policy. We do give them 2 15 minute break and 30 minute lunch. Can we take away their breaks? We are located in Texas.
    Thanks.

  23. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Dawn!~ Cailtin

  24. Gary Says:

    Please, stop complaining and go back to work.

  25. vanessa Says:

    I am a manager at a restaraunt. If I asked an employee to take an hour break and he replies that I can not force him to take a break, will it be against the law to discipline him for not following the rules?

  26. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Vanessa! No, this is entirely acceptable. In fact, you could even terminate the employee for not following your directions or company policy. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  27. sandra Says:

    i work for a maintenance company in TX. We worl 6 – 9 hours a shift,, and cannot take a lunch break at all. My employer still deducts 30 minutes Every shift for a lunch we do not get to take. Is this legal?

  28. sandra Says:

    i work for a maintenance co. In TX. We use a company truck to go from job site to site and are not allowed to stop or take a lunch break. My employer deducts a 30 min. Lunch break every day any way. Is this legal?

  29. Caitlin Says:

    Hi sandra! If the employer is automatically deducting for a lunch break that you do not take, that is a violation of the Texas minimum wage law. File a wage complaint with the TWC. HTH, and thanks for reading!~ Caitlin

  30. Caitlin Says:

    Hi again sandra! The employer could require you to take a lunch break on the job site, without using the truck. However, if you are not given a lunch break, then you must be paid for all the time you work. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!!~Caitlin

  31. Nicholas Fleener Says:

    Credit can be a great thing and a bad thing. I think credit all over is abused, buy the user, and the credit companies. The interest rates are too high and something has to be done about that. There are so many ways that we can improve the credit situation on all ends.

  32. Caitlin Says:

    Thanks for reading, Nicholas!~ Caitlin

  33. home water filters Says:

    Nothing venture nothing have.

  34. Caitlin Says:

    Hi home! Guess you wanted to avoid the cliche of *nothing ventured, nothing gained.* Thanks for reading!~ Caitlin

  35. Monica Says:

    If my maintance staff comes in (not scheduled to work)and is here for 15 minutes, do we pay him 1 hour or the 15 min. only? To date they are getting paid 3 hrs for 15 min. (there use to be a hotel management company running my hotel, and i am assuming they are still going by the old policy)I am in the state of Texas

  36. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Monica! In Texas, the law requires only that you pay the employee for the time worked — meaning 15 minutes. Many employers would pay for a minimum of 1 hour or 3 hours, but you are not legally required to. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  37. jenni Says:

    Can my boss dictate what i do on my unpaid lunch break? i.e. take a power nap vs actually eating?

  38. Caitlin Says:

    Hi jenni! Yes and no. In most states, your boss can restrict certain activities during your breaks. An employer could ban playing basketball during your breaks, and a number of other activities, including studying and sleeping.

    In this case, the boss probably interprets your napping as an indication that a) you did not get enough sleep the night before and b) therefore you have not been productive during the day.

    The solution is simple. There is a wealth of information available online about the benefits of power naps. Print off several articles, and see of you can convince your boss that he should allow naps during the day. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  39. Outraged in Texas Says:

    I work in Texas and I work 11 hour days (hourly). I do not take lunch, however they deduct an hour from my pay. This can not be legal. Please advise

  40. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Outraged! You are right, this is not legal. Both the Texas and federal minimum wage laws require that an employee be paid for all the time he works. File a wage complaint with the TWC or Texas Workforce Commission. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who files a complaint. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  41. Victor Says:

    I work for a Hotel,and very many times I work shifts of only five hours, and force to take a break of 30 minutes, ending getting paid for 4 and a half, is this legal in Texas?

  42. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Victor! Yes, this is legal in Texas and in most states. The employer can require that you take a 30-minute unpaid break on a shift of any length, and pay you only for the time that you work. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  43. Mary Says:

    This question has to do with working in Texas. If an employer allows coffee breaks and lunch breaks does this have to be offered for all employees?

  44. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Mary! As an employer, you should offer the same benefits to all employees with the same job. You can offer different benefits to workers with different jobs, as long as there is a valid business reason for doing so. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  45. Robbie Says:

    In Tx, can a restaurant force me to stay there on break and force me to come off of break if they need me. Thank you

  46. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Robbie! Yes, both these policies are very common and completely legal in Texas. The employer can require that you remain on the premises for a meal break that is 20 to 60 minutes long. In addition, the employer can require that you clock back in and return to work if it gets busy. Under federal law, if your break is less than 20 minutes, you must be paid for the entire time. Also, the employer cannot require that you clock out for more than 60 minutes but remain on the premises, waiting for work. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  47. Rusty Says:

    I moved to Texas on 10/18/2008.I did not know how warm is was out here. Of all the states in the USA, which are only a few. The heat and humitity is unbearable.I strongly beleive that all workers deserve at least two ten minute breaks in an eight hour shift. As of now Texas does not have to give anyone short breaks.This is bullshit and unamerican. People are not machines they get tired too.This is what causes injury or death in the work place. Maybe some of the boses should work out in the warehouse for a week with just a lunch break.Thank you.

  48. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Rusty! Here is the good news. You are correct that a Texas employer does not have to provide short rest breaks. (Actually, the law does not even require them to provide a meal break.) And it is truly, unbearably hot, with highs over 100 degrees for 30 consecutive days in many parts of Texas. And it can be even hotter inside an unairconditioned warehouse.

    However, the Texas employer does have to provide safe working conditions, under OSHA worker safety regulations. In many cases, that includes more frequent rest breaks when temperatures soar. OSHA recommends that employers provide frequent breaks in the shade or an airconditioned area when employees are working in the heat all day.

    Since your employer is not providing this, our suggestion is that you contact OSHA at http://www.osha.gov to see if they can inspect the site, and determine if working conditions are safe. Also read the guidelines at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatstress/, and if your employer is not following them, file a complaint with OSHA. Note that your job is protected if you file a complaint with OSHA, but it may not be protected if you just gripe to your employer. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  49. Kristin Allen Says:

    I work as a Headstart teacher in the state of TX….What I am reading on these BLOGS is that….in the STATE of TEXAS if you only work 8 hrs; a 15 minute break isnt required?? Well how CAN we change this??

  50. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Kristen! Actually, in Texas there is no requirement that an employee give rest or meal breaks to an employee, even if he or she works 20 hours per day. Nineteen US states have laws that require meal or rest breaks for almost all employees. However, Texas is not one of them. Be aware that even states that require meal breaks for most employees, often exempt teachers.
    The first step in getting a break law passed in Texas would be to contact your state representative. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  51. Esmi Says:

    Why is Texas one of many states with “NO” Law that protects employees to have a legal right to a 5 minute break during our summer season. I believe in order to keep our state working and emploeeys healthy; Texas should highly reconsider looking things in a diffrent (get in our shoe)way. Tempretures reach above 103 in summer. Working outside in the heat of the sun with no shade and break in sight should be called cruelty of the Texas Workforce department. Many people of age range 45yrs old and beyond did not for many resons have the oppertunity to finish high school or dropped out because thier parents back then believed they need their children to work and not achieve their education. I ask to please reconsider our Texas law for the benefit and protection of our men employees and their families. Only for the summer and every summers to come. I Thank You

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