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New Jersey Break Laws

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

Federal law does not require employers in New Jersey to give breaks. Some states have their own laws regarding break times, but New Jersey is not among them.

There are some exceptions for specific industries, like the trucking industry.

While there is no law that requires an employer to give any break, whether for a meal, a cigarette, or simply a rest, and workers can be made to work 16 hours a day or more without them, in reality most businesses do offer breaks.

Research has concluded that employees are more productive when they get breaks. So, most employers offer at least a 30 minute meal break and two 15 minute rest breaks during a typical 8 hour shift.

Federal law does regulate breaks in one regard. The FLSA, or Fair Labor Standards Act, demands that if a worker takes a break that’s less than 20 minutes long, he or she must be paid for that time. Another way of looking at the law is that an employer need not pay a worker for a break that’s 20 minutes long or more.

The exception is that if an employee must be available for work during her or his meal break, then management must pay for that time. If, for example, a graphic artist continues on a design project while eating a sandwich, then that designer must be paid. Similarly, if a receptionist stays at his or her desk to be available for telephone calls, then he or she must be paid, even if there are no phone calls. The law determines that the employer is paying the receptionist to be available during that time.

California and Oregon, among other states, offer their own laws mandating that almost all workers get regular breaks and one meal break on every shift. But many states have no such break laws. They include Utah, Georgia, North Carolina, Alaska, Arizona, Alabama, Texas, and Florida.

Child labor laws step in to protect workers under 18. In many states, meal breaks are required for anyone under 18 years old, while almost all states require the same for children under 16. JH

This entry was posted on Monday, March 3rd, 2008 at 11:07 am and is filed under
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14 Responses to “New Jersey Break Laws”

  1. sally flynn Says:

    I am a salaried worker in nw jersey and I work 9 hours a day. I am supposed to get an hour meal break, sometimes because of a small staff i do not get a full break. Our company has a sign up saying that anyone who works over 8 hours must take an hour break. I do not know id that includes salaried workers. Does anyone know?

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Sally! According to the US Department of Labor, there is no federal or New Jersey law that requires a break for any New Jersey employee,regardless of the number of hours worked. This applies to both salaried and non-salaried workers, and includes meal breaks and rest breaks. So the sign likely refers to a company policy, not a state or federal law. Most companies are not overly concerned with breaks for salaried workers, because there is no financial impact on the company.

    The best practice in HR is for each employee to have a meal break of 30 minutes or more, and one or two 10 to 15 minute rest breaks during an 8 or 9 hour shift. However, sometimes working conditions make this impossible, and it is usually up to salaried employees to take up the slack. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs! ~ Caitlin

  3. syed Hussain Says:

    What about Part time non-exempt employees. I am working in hotel industry and work mostly (3 days ) 5pm to 11 pm and on weekend from 3PM to 11PM. Do I have to take a half hour lunch break. Is this legal to forced a part time employee to have half hour break

    Let me know


  4. Caitlin Says:

    Hi syed! Full-time and part-time are not distinctions established by employment law…they are a matter of company policy. Therefore, in general, the same laws that apply to full-time employees, apply to part-time employees.
    In New Jersey the employer is not required to give breaks to workers. However, the employer can establish a company policy that employees must take unpaid meal breaks. The employer can discipline or terminate any employee who does not take a break. This is true for both full-time and part-time employees.
    Our comments about meal breaks are split about 50/50 — many employees who have no breaks want them, and many employees (like you) who are required to take breaks do not want them. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  5. ed Says:

    is there any regulation of how the breaks/lunches are divided.i work at a place where the break times are given according to work progress ie half the work load done 1st break,second half of the work done lunch and 2nd break combined..and sometimes second break is ommited all this legal..because it doesnt seem right

  6. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Ed! Sorry, but no. There is no law that requires employers to give breaks to workers in New Jersey. Therefore, there are no laws that govern the timing of those breaks.
    The NJ employer can choose to give a lunch and two breaks, or a lunch and one break or no lunch and no breaks. All are perfectly lawful. Sorry.
    We will note that many things that are “not right” are legal under employment law. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  7. joe Says:

    I am a salaried employee and work from 8 to 5 on a normal basis. We take lunch at our office and aare required to do the following.
    1. we are not permitted to leave the building and must eat lunch in a group so our owner can speak to us about work during lunch.
    2. must decide jointly on the place we get lunch from and if we do not wish to eat from that location we must forgo lunch (lunch is paid for but ordering seperately is not allowed even at our own expense)
    3. required to wait for the owner of the business to be ready to order lunch no matter how late of a time that may be
    My question is does this violate any employee rights in new jersey and should i recieve ovetime for working 45 hours + a week. I make under 100k per year and work at a desk in a non adminsistrative role.

  8. Caitlin Says:

    Hi joe! The answer to the first question is easy. No, this does not violate any break law in New Jersey. There is no break law in New Jersey for employees over the age of 18. Nor is there any federal break law for employees in general industry. Employees can be required to work 16 hours per day without a meal break.
    The best practice would be to give employees a 30-minute unpaid meal break, and permit them to make their own arrangements regarding food. However, there is no law that requires this. Even in states wiht a meal break law, employees can be required to remain on the premises during the break.
    So technically this employer is doing a lot more than the law requires. He is permitting employees to take a meal break, and even paying for their lunch every day.
    Because the owner uses the meal period as meeting time, employees are entitled to payment for the break. The second question is harder to answer. A salaried employee can be either exempt or non-exempt, based on their primary duties. Under federal law, 5 types of employee can be exempt from overtime: Computer Pros, Professionals, Executives, Outside Salespeople, and Administrators. We would have to know a lot more about your job before we could determine if you are an exempt or a non-exempt employee. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  9. Betty Says:

    I think it is a disgrace that any company would have eployees work 8+ hours in a given day and not allow them to take a 15 minute break or 30 minutes for lunch, yet the [employer name deleted], a blood bank prides itself on this. They think it is a motivator to tell their employees that if they do not perform they will be fired! Not sure when living in fear was a moral booster, but I guess times are changing. Unfortunately, for that employer they are not changing in a positve way. It is time for someone to step in and put a stop to it!

  10. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Betty! Many people would agree, which is why a number of states have laws that require meal breaks.HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  11. David Says:


    I work for County Govt. They deduct 30 min from our time when we reach 5 hours. The issue is they deduct the 30 min even if we punch out at 4 hours and 53 min. Because we provide service to the public there are many times we can not take the 30 break. Any thing we can do??


  12. Caitlin Says:

    Hi David! Yes, this is a violation of state minimum wage laws, which require that an employee be paid for all time worked. You should tactfully raise this with your supervisor or HR person. If that does not work, file a wage complaint with the state department of labor for the unpaid 30 minutes. By law, they are not allowed to retaliate against an employee for filing the complaint. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  13. aj Says:

    i am an hourly paid employee in New Jersey. employees who work over 5 hours during the day at my job receive a half hour lunch break. however, a lot of the employees work at night and we work over 5 hours and we do not receive a break. is this allowed?

  14. Caitlin Says:

    Hi AJ! Yes, this is allowed in New Jersey. Many states like New York, Illinois and California have break laws that require meal breaks for all employees — but New Jersey does not. A New Jersey employee can be required to work a shift of any length without a meal break.

    It is legal in New Jersey and in other states for an employer to treat workers on the day shift differently from workers on the night shift. If the employer gave Asian employees on the night shift a meal break, but did not give breaks to employees from other ethnic groups on the same shift, that would be illegal discrimination. HTH and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

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