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Federal or State Regulations Regarding 15 Minute Breaks

In the state of Louisiana, are companies required by law to offer 15 minute breaks for every 4 hours worked? We receive a one hour lunch break when working an 8:00 am until 5:00 pm shift.

There is no state or federal law that requires any rest breaks for workers in Louisiana. There is not even a law that requires

Louisiana workers to be given a lunch or meal break.

In fact, even in the 6 states where such breaks are required for most workers, the breaks are only 10 minutes.

Federal labor laws do not require any rest or “coffee” breaks for workers in most occupations. However, OSHA standards do require that employers permit workers to use the restroom when necessary.

Most states, and the federal government, have break laws that apply to workers under the age of 18.


Six states do have some sort of statute requiring short “rest breaks” during a shift. They are California, Colorado, Kentucky, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. All of those states require that employees receive a 10-minute break in the middle of each 4-hour work segment. In addition, Minnesota requires that employees receive a long enough break to use the nearest restroom during each 4-hour period.

Of the states with break laws, the Illinois law is by far the most restrictive. The Illinois break law requires that hotel maids in cities with a population over 3 million be given two 15-minute paid breaks, plus a 30-minute unpaid lunch when working 7 hours or more. Because the only city in Illinois with a population over 3 million is

Chicago, this law applies only to workers who clean hotel rooms in that city.

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA, all breaks of less than 20 minutes must be paid.

Although rest breaks are not legally required by law, many employers do grant them. A number of studies show that workers who take two breaks, plus a meal break, are more productive.

Sometimes meal and rest breaks are required under union contracts. And, in some specialized occupations, OSHA or other federal regulations require breaks.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 3rd, 2008 at 2:08 pm and is filed under
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14 Responses to “Federal or State Regulations Regarding 15 Minute Breaks”

  1. Donna Banks Says:

    I live in Texas and skip my lunch break (get paid for that lunch break that I don’t take), I take my two 15 minute paid breaks around the lunch time.

    Is this okay?

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Donna! No, probably not, but that is entirely up to your employer. You could be disciplined or terminated for abusing the break policy in this way.
    In many states, the employer is not required to give you any meal break or shorter rest breaks. So the employer is doing the right thing.
    Under federal law, any breaks shorter than 20 minutes must be paid, but any break longer than 20 minutes can be unpaid. If you are using your two 15-minute breaks back-to-back to eat a meal, that time should be unpaid. In most states, employers can require that workers remain on the premises during paid and unpaid breaks.
    The best practice in HR is for employers to give workers a 10- to 15-minute paid break in the morning and afternoon, and an unpaid mid-shift meal break of more than 20 minutes. These breaks improve employee morale and productivity. Your employer is following this practice, but you are abusing it (and reducing your productivity) by trying to use the two 15-minute paid breaks as a paid lunch. The employer would be well within his or her rights to discipline or terminate you for this.
    Every day we receive email from employees who are required to work 12 hours or more without any meal or rest break at all. You have a good employer — our suggestion would be to do the right thing and take your breaks as scheduled. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

    PS Note that 19 US states require that employee take a meal break, although that break can be unpaid.

  3. Donna Banks Says:

    How would I know was abusing the policy? I’m not an attorney or in human resources. That’s why I sent the question to begin with.

    How do you know my employer is doing the right thing and how do you know I have a good employer? I didn’t tell you who it is and I gave you not one detail about the company.

    My morale and productivity is at an all time low anyway because I have NO work and sit 9 hours looking at the walls. I would be happy to take no break at all during the day if I had work.

    Before you make completely unfounded assumptions and become harsh, you might want to obtain some details other than the sketchy ones I gave you.

    You sound as if you are under a lot of pressure. Perhaps you need more breaks during the day.

  4. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Donna! We did not intend to sound mean. The employer should have done a better job of explaining that you receive a 15-minute paid break in the morning and afternoon, and a 30-minute unpaid lunch. Now you know — when you arrange to combine two paid breaks to replace one unpaid break, and get paid for an extra half hour daily, that’s abusing the employer’s good nature.

    We know your employer is a good one because they are providing good working conditions to you — even when they legally do not have to do so. They are following the best practices in HR when 50% of employers choose not to.

    Again, we literally get emails and questions every day from employees who do demanding work for 12, 16 or 18 hours per day and are not permitted a meal break or even one 10-minute rest break. If they take a break, they get fired. One pregnant worker asked if she could really be required to work 16 hours without eating anything. In most states, the answer is “yes”.

    A few minutes ago, we answered a question from a supervisor wondering if he can fire an employee who takes too many bathroom breaks. The company gives one unpaid 30-minute meal break and no additional bathroom breaks during the day.

    (And actually, we work from home, so we can take as many breaks as we want! But we realize that in many states, the majority of workers are not so lucky.)

    Having said all that, it sounds like this job is grossly underutilizing your skills and talents. You don’t feel the need for breaks because the “work” is so boring. In some ways, being paid to do nothing is harder than working. In this case, we think you could be forgiven if you used the time to write a novel, or to look for a more interesting job. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  5. Kisha Miyamura Says:

    Neat blog, some interesting details. I believe 8 of days ago, I have found a similar post. Does anyone know how to track future posts?

  6. Caitlin Says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Kisha!~ Caitlin

  7. chris Says:

    Are New Jersey state public works employees entitled to any paid rest breks?

  8. Caitlin Says:

    Hi chris! There is no federal or New Jersey law that requires an employer to give rest breaks to workers. The employer may have a policy of giving rest breaks. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  9. Gus Zebian Says:

    We are told in hot weather workers are entitle to 15 minutes break every 45 minutes. our job site in Arizona (currently temp is 106 deg F) and doing roof work. Apparently the Federal Requlations required this break but I dont know which article or where to find it.Thx/Gus

  10. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Gus! OSHA, the federal worker safety organization, requires that employers provide safe working conditions for employees. “Safe working conditions” means different things in different occupations.

    One of the OSHA requirements for avoiding heat stress is that workers be given frequent breaks in the shade or in air conditioning in very high temperatures. At a temperature of 106, 15 minutes off out of every hour may very well be necessary. The employees should also drink plenty of water. See for more info. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  11. Randy Schneider Says:

    Is there any laws in Kansas about employes getting a 15 min break?? I work 8 hours a day and I only get 30 break a day and that is it

  12. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Randy! Unfortunately, no, Kansas has no law at the state level that requires an employer to give meal or rest breaks to employees. Nor is there such a federal law, for employees in general industry. The Kansas employer is not even obligated by law to give a meal break.
    Federal OSHA worker safety regulations require that an employee be permitted to use the toilet when nature calls, but that does not include smoking, making phone calls or other activities. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  13. Philip Howard. Says:

    I work in WV and they require a 20 minute break for 6 hours worked, but my employer requires us to take a 30 minute break after 4 hours 30 minutes. Legal?

  14. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Phillip! Yes, this is legal. The law is the minimum break that the employer must give — it is not the maximum standard that the employer can impose. The employer can require that an employee take a 30 minute meal break after 4.5 hours. In fact, the employer could even require that an employee take a 60 minute meal break. The meal breaks can be unpaid as long as the employee is relieved of all duties. Any employee who refuses to follow this company policy can be disciplined or terminated. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

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