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Alabama Break Laws

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

In Alabama, no federal or state law requires employers to provide workers with breaks.  Employers are required to pay workers for breaks that last 20 minutes or less, as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

There are many states that have no break laws.  Among them are Utah, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Alaska, Arizona, and Mississippi.  In all of these states, employers may require employees to work for a full day without taking any breaks.  Even if an employee’s shift lasts for 16 hours or more, the ruling applies. 

There are a few states, including Oregon and California that have laws requiring virtually all workers to receive regular breaks.  This includes one meal break per shift.

Depending upon a worker’s age, the rules regarding breaks might also be different.  There are many states that require meal breaks for employees who are under the age of 18.  Virtually all states require meal breaks for employees under the age of 16.  Each state’s child labor laws govern such regulations.

Research has been conducted showing that employees are more productive when they are provided with breaks.  It is not uncommon for employers to allow their workers to have two 15-minute rest breaks, plus one 30-minute meal break during an eight-hour shift.  Federal law stipulates that 15-minute breaks have to be paid.

When employees have to be available for work during their meal break, he or she must be paid for that time.  For instance, a graphic artist who works on his or her designs while eating a sandwich must be paid. 

When employers do choose to provide breaks, they need to do it in such a way that does not constitute any type of illegal discrimination.  When an employer gives breaks to one drill press operator, they need to also give breaks to all of the others.  To do otherwise might put the employer in violation of the federal anti-discrimination laws. JH

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 5th, 2008 at 11:25 am and is filed under
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8 Responses to “Alabama Break Laws”

  1. joey gasparetto Says:

    does the law require more than one break in an 8 hour shift. I only get one break and I work over 8 hours some days.

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Joey!There is no law in Alabama that requires employers to give even one meal or rest break to employees. OSHA regulations require that employees be allowed to use the toilet when nature calls. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  3. Jessica Says:

    Are there any laws for being forced to take breaks to prevent overtime hours?

  4. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Jessica! Not in Alabama. The employer has every right to require an employee to take a 30-minute or one-hour unpaid break, to control labor costs.

    Even if the employer required the worker to clock out for two or three hours, and come back afterwards, that would be legal in Alabama (although it is illegal in some other states.) HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  5. kathy Says:

    is it true that OSHA requires meal breaks for certain industry workers? and if so what are those industries

  6. kathy Says:

    if a company provides a lunch break for salaried employees such as managers but does not provide a lunch break for hourly employees can they be held as discriminatory?

  7. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Kathy! No, OSHA has no specific regulations requiring meal breaks for certain industries. OSHA works on a case-by-case basis, so depending upon the circumstances, they might require (for example) that construction workers who are working outside in 100 degree heat, be given a meal break.
    In some other industries, employees must be given meal breaks for safety reasons. For example, a commercial diver might be entitled to a meal break.
    The U.S. Department of Transportation does require meal breaks for employees in certain industries, but those are limited to airline pilots, interstate truckers and similar occupations. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  8. Caitlin Says:

    Hi kathy! Unfortunately, no. It is a very poor practice for an employer to provide meal breaks for exempt salaried employees, and not for hourly workers — but it is legal in Alabama. This policy implies that the company has very low regard for their employees and does not offer competitive working conditions, which is sad. Such a company might find itself the target of union organizers, or have trouble keeping qualified workers.
    If the company gave meal breaks to Hispanic employee, but not to Caucasian employees, that would be illegal discrimination. If the company gave meal breaks to men but not women, that would be illegal discrimination. But it is lawful to treat salaried and hourly employees differently. However, in most industries, it is the hourly employees who receive meal breaks. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

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