What is the New York Law on breaks? Must an employee who works less than 6 hours be given a break? What about an employee who works more than 6 hours?
It is not entirely clear if you are referring to meal breaks or rest breaks, so we will address both.
The answer to this question will depend upon the industry the employer is in, and the time of day that the shift starts and ends. New York has the most complex of all break laws. For example, factory workers in New York are entitled to a one-hour meal break, while workers in most other industries who work “during the noon day meal period” are entitled to a 30 minute meal break. “During the noon day meal period” is generally interpreted to mean between 11 am and 2 pm. That may mean that a worker whose 6 hour shift ends at 12:20 is not entitled to a meal break.
In addition, when a New York worker starts before 11 am and the shift ends after 7 pm, he or she is entitled to an additional 20 minute meal break between 5 pm and 7pm. This is essentially a “dinner” break, while the earlier break was a “lunch” break.
Finally, employees in New York who work a shift of more than 6 hours starting any time between 1 pm and 6 am are entitled to a 45-minute meal break in the middle of the shift. (Unless they are in a factory, when the break must be 1 hour.)
As far as we can tell, there is no requirement for a meal break for New York employees who work a shift less than 6 hours, unless it is over the noon hour or starts before 11 am and continues after 7 pm.
We told you they were complicated! All of those meal breaks can be unpaid, when they are 20 minutes or more and the employee is relieved of all duties. For more on meal breaks, see this info on coffee breaks: http://www.labor.state.ny.us/workerprotection/laborstandards/faq.shtm#7
and this info on meal breaks: http://www.labor.state.ny.us/workerprotection/laborstandards/employer/meals.shtm
By contrast, the New York laws for rest or coffee breaks are very simple. There are none. Although OSHA standards mean that employees must be allowed reasonable access to bathrooms (and time to use them), no additional breaks are required by state law, on a shift of any length. Under federal law, breaks of less than 20 minutes must be paid breaks.
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