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Indiana Break Law

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

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 14th, 2008 at 10:30 am and is filed under
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17 Responses to “Indiana Break Law”

  1. Ed Learned Says:

    Where did you get your information that, in Indiana, an employer can make an employee work for 16 hours without any break? I have been looking for such information for a while now, since some employers think they can do anything they please and that their employees will have no recourse. But I have not been able to find anything in print so far, that plainly states what Indiana employers can . . . and more importantly, cannot do to their employees. It seems like the practices you describe on this web page:

    … border on torture, which would become human rights issues, perhaps with medically related side effects, like urinary track infections! Wasn’t slavery abolished under Federal Laws in the United States over 100 years ago? Please respond. Your answer on the above web page certainly seems unacceptable, at least from a human rights perspective! Thank you.

    Editor’s Note: Ed, it seems that you are confusing restroom breaks with rest breaks. Under OSHA standards, employers must provide restrooms and permit employees to use them. However, there is no federal law that requires rest breaks (commonly called “coffee breaks”) or meal breaks for most industries.

    Normally our experts get their information directly from federal or state goverment publications. If a question is in doubt, they contact the appropriate regulatory agency for a final ruling. For this question, the U.S. Depatment of Labor has a handy list of states that require meal breaks, and those that require rest breaks. On that same site, under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) regulations, you’ll find the information that no federal law requires breaks in most occupations. (There are exceptions for certain industries, such as truck drivers and airplane pilots.)

    Most employers do provide rest breaks and meal breaks to workers, and it is certainly barbaric to make an employee work 16 hours without a meal or rest break. However, it isn’t against any law, in most states.

    If you find this answer unacceptable, our recommendation would be to contact your local representative in Congress and work towards having the law changed. But, please don’t blame the messenger.

    In practice, this means that an Indiana employer can set whatever break policy he or she deems reasonable. Most employers do give one 10 or 15 minute rest break in midmorning and midafternoon, and one meal break of 30 minutes or more. Under federal law, the 10 or 15 minute break must be paid, if the employer elects to give them. However, there is no law that the employer must give breaks.

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Ed, this basically means that as an employer, you can set whatever break rules you want, and enforce them. It doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to force employees to work long hours without breaks.

  3. Rachel Says:

    Hi Ed!
    You might also want to check out the Indiana Dept. of Labor Website. If you page down, you’ll see on the FAQs:
    “Is my employer required to give me time off for lunch or breaks?
    If you are over 18 years of age, Indiana law does not require your employer to give time off for lunch or breaks. If you are under 18 years of age, Indiana law requires your employer to provide you either one or two rest breaks totaling 30-minutes when you are scheduled to work six or more consecutive hours.”
    The website is at

  4. Ed Learned Says:

    Thanks for the clarification on “breaks” versus restroom usage. With that answer in mind, I wish to expand on my question. My wife works part time (ie, less than 8 hrs. per day) for an outfit that apparently favors smokers (which she is not). The smokers take breaks every day, multiple times a day, and go outside to smoke (because inside, it is a non-smoking environment). But my wife has not been allowed to take breaks because she is a non-smoker! Isn’t that some kind of illegal discrimination? Thanks again!

    Editor’s note: There are really two questions here: Is it fair to give smokers more breaks than non-smokers with similar jobs? and, Is it illegal discrimination? It’s not fair for an employer to give multiple breaks to an employee who smokes, and no breaks to a worker with the same position, who doesn’t smoke. But, unfortunately, not everything that is unfair is illegal. There is no state or federal law that requires an employer to treat smokers and non-smokers the same. (A handful of states have laws that protect the rights of smokers in the workplace, but those don’t apply here.)

    Under federal law, there is legal discrimination and illegal discrimination in the workplace. For example, it’s completely legal and appropriate for an employer to discriminate between employees who do a good job, and those who don’t. On the other hand, it’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on race, color, religion, national ancestry, sex, age (over 40), pregnancy or disability. However, there is no law prohibiting discrimination against non-smokers. The Indiana Civil Rights Commission enforces similar laws on the state level. But again, nonsmokers are not a protected class, under the law, in regards to employment discrimination.

    Ed, if you post your query as a question, rather than a comment, you’ll receive a more detailed answer. But, it probably won’t be substantially different.

  5. Marie Says:

    Under HIPAA regulations, is it legal for the Human Resources department to give out the address of an employee to another department in the company, if that department needs to mail something to said employee?

  6. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Marie! Generally, yes. HIPAA protects the employee’s personal medical information — not his or her address. It’s very common for employers to use the worker’s address, and to share it with different departments. Caitlin

  7. Adoxos Says:

    Your information for Illinois is not entirely correct, and as a point of reference, for future answers I would not rely on a Federal agency’s (USDOL) website to give you the answers for State laws. Illinois’s statute is the One Day Rest In Seven Act, which states “An(y) employee who is to work 7 1/2 continuous hours or more shall be provided an unpaid meal period of at least 20 minutes. The meal period must be given to an employee no later than 5 hours after beginning work. Illinois has no law regarding breaks.”

  8. Adoxos Says:

    Note: There are a few excepted classifications (e.g., agriculture, mining, caretaker of mentally disabled, etc.). Here is a link to ODRISA, ILCS 140/&ChapterID=68&ChapterName=EMPLOYMENT&ActName=One+Day+Rest+In+Seven+Act%2E

  9. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Adoxos! Thanks for setting us straight! And, for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  10. Bob Says:

    I am a Republican, and I do not believe in rights for workers at all. I am against breaks and lunches for workers. I think the federal law should mandate no breaks, since most employees spend their time at breaks smoking pot and plotting against the establishment. I am also against human rights. I believe in torture and slavery. Unions are the antichrist. Jesus supports torture and working people without breaks because things get done!

  11. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Bob!
    Thanks for your tounge-in-cheek comments! Although you are kidding, many people believe that government should not be involved in private employee/employer issues like breaks. These same people assume that employers will do the right thing by their employees. Our mail refelects the reality that while many employers will, a significant minority will abuse workers in any way that they can. Thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  12. Keri Says:

    I must admit I do not agree with Bob and his comment. There are people in this world who use their break and lunch times to relax. I work retail and sometimes you just need to get away from people.

  13. Caitlin Says:

    Welcome, Keri! We are pretty sure that Bob is kidding. The tip-off was “I am Republican…and I believe in torture and slavery.” You are right, of course. Several studies show that employees who have regular breaks actually get more work done. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  14. Resisting Arrest Says:

    You own a very interesting blog covering lots of topics I am interested as well.Just bookmarked your blog to continue reading in the next days… Just continue your brilliant work

  15. Caitlin Says:

    Thanks for reading, Resisting!~ Caitlin

  16. missy ellis Says:

    is there a limit to 16 hours an employee can work in indiana. and if so what happens when you have a coworker call in and you have to work?? i was told you at least have to have a 4 hour time clocked out between shifts?? what law does this fall under?

  17. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Missy! Sorry, but there are no such laws in Indiana, or most other states. Both federal and Indiana law require that an employee be paid overtime when he or she works more than 40 hours in the payroll week. However, there is no federal or Indiana law that limits the number of hours that an employee in general industry can be required to work in a day or a week. State and federal laws do limit the number of work hours for employees in certain occupations such as interstate truck drivers, nurses or airline pilots.
    In some industries, it is fairly common for employees to be required to work “double shifts” or 16 hours straight — two 8-hour shifts back-to-back. This may occur because the business is understaffed or because someone calls in sick. There is no federal or Indiana law that an employee must be given 4 hours off after working 8 hours, or after working 16 hours. This is not an issue that is addressed under the state employment laws. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

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