In Indiana, are employers required to give breaks under any state or federal law? Does it matter how old the employee is, or if it’s in the fast food industry?
No, and it doesn’t matter whether the employee is in the fast food business or not. The age of the employee matters, however. Those under 18 are protected by states’ child labor laws. Many of those laws require a meal break for those under 18, and almost all require such a break if the child is under 16.
In many states, including Indiana, an employer has the right to make an employee work without any break, even for shifts that last 16 or more hours. That includes meal breaks, short rest breaks, or smoking breaks. The list of states includes Utah, Georgia, North Carolina, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Texas, and Alabama.
While breaks are not required by law, most employers do offer them. That’s because research has demonstrated that workers are more productive if they get breaks. A common approach, of course, is to offer two quarter-hour rest breaks and a half hour meal break during an 8 hour working day.
Some states have laws about meal beaks. California, Colorado, and Maine all mandate an unpaid meal break lasting a half hour for every shift of 6 hours or longer. Employees must be working a shift of 7.5 hours or more in Connecticut and Delaware to qualify for the same break.
There are also some states with break laws applying to all employees. Nevada, Oregon, Washington, California, Colorado, and Kentucky all require a 10 minute break during a 4 hour work stretch, as close to the halfway point as possible. Minnesota only requires a “reasonable break” during a 4 hour period to use the bathroom.
Illinois has a work break regulation, but it’s written in such a way that it applies only to a few workers — hotel room attendants in Chicago. The attendants are legally entitled to two quarter-hour paid breaks and one half-hour unpaid break during a 7 hour shift. Workers over 18 and in other jobs or regions are not protected. JH
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