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Virginia lunch/smoking breaks

Is an employer in the state of Virginia required by law to give employees paid lunch breaks? Smoking breaks? Rest Breaks or breaks of any kind?

The answer to all of your questions is: No, Virginia does not require lunch breaks, smoking breaks, meal or rest breaks for employees. OSHA standards require that employees be permitted to use the bathroom when nature calls, and to drink water on duty.

No state in the U.S. requires employers to give workers paid lunch breaks. Under the federal FLSA or Fair Labor Standards Act, employees must be paid for rest breaks of less than 20 minutes. They need not be paid for meal breaks that are more than 20 minutes as long as they are relieved of all duties. However, that federal law does not require that employers give breaks — it merely establishes payment requirements, if the employer chooses to give breaks.

Nineteen states do require unpaid meal breaks for nearly every employee. Virginia is not one of them.

About eight of those states also require paid rest breaks for employees. Virginia is not one of them.

There is no state in the union that requires smoke breaks for employees, paid or unpaid.

The best practice in HR in most industries is to give one unpaid meal break of 30 minutes or more, and two paid rest breaks of 10 to 15 minutes, 8 hour per shift. However, there is no law that requires this.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, January 11th, 2009 at 8:58 pm and is filed under
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14 Responses to “Virginia lunch/smoking breaks”

  1. A little bird Says:

    …ok… what if an employer sets a time/attendance policy that specifies a work period, and specifies an unpaid lunch break?

    Are employee rights violated by this kind of policy?

    If an employee elects to “work through” this lunch break, are there FLSA violations if the employee is disciplined for the apparent policy breach?

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Hi! An employee who works through their break can be disciplined or terminated for not following company policy. However, under the FLSA, the employee must be paid for the work time. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  3. Jennifer Newton Says:

    How does one go about changing this law about breaks. I work for a phone center and sometimes we are forced to sit for 9 hours without a lunch break. That is a real strain on your back and your brain. Everyone needs a chance to get up and take a break to stretch or eat lunch. This is not a very fair law and I wanted to know how to even start to change this.

  4. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Jennifer! You could contact your representitives in the Virginia legislature and let them know how important this issue is to you. HTH,and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  5. Debi Says:

    My employer requires us to work 8-5, and take a 1 hour unpaid lunch break, when we can, which is great. But, frequently we have to work the 9 hours without anything but a bathroom break. We do not get compensated by the company for this.
    Is this legal?

  6. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Debi! If you are an hourly employee, when you work 9 hours you must be paid for 9 hours. If that results in you working more than 40 hours in a payroll week, and you are covered by the federal overtime law, you are entitled to overtime. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  7. Whlyum Says:

    Yeah When I first started working for my company the store manager stressed that we must clock out and take a break if we have worked six hours or more but he emphasized it like it was a law of some some sort. over these years I have been confused about the law and breaks and things of that nature. I would def agree with what was stated above. Its kinda unfair to have worked so many hours and not be able to rest and eat and so on and so forth. Thank you for posting this web page.

  8. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Whlyum! You are very welcome. Some employers require breaks under company policy, but Virginia law does not mandate them. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  9. jackie Says:

    Some people love control..everyone deserves a break time, wow

  10. Caitlin Says:

    You bring up a good point, Jackie. Breaks also make workers more productive. Thanks for reading!~ Caitlin

  11. B Says:

    the cheesecake factory will work you 12 13 hours straight with no break…

  12. Lynn Says:

    It is a shame that FLSA does not require everyone to have at the minimum 30 minutes of lunch/break time in an 8 hour period. I have worked in patient care for 10 years now and all I can tell you is I can work 8-13 hours a day with not a single break or lunch. I basically eat a bananna or fruit cup sometime while scanning a patient and I always hear nurses crunching on something while answering the phone (because we do not get that 30 min break to eat). It is exhausting and I noticed toward the end of the shift I make more mistakes and really do not give a crap at that point and my patient care gows down hill because all I want to do is get out of there. I have completed a degree is something other than patient care in hopes of never ever working patient care again in by the next year or two as it has become way to much of a burn out. Laws need to be changed because I can assure you, that nurse or doctor that is taking care of you will make some mistakes on their shift…and the mistakes may cost your life

  13. Marie Says:

    Employee work hours are from 8AM to 5PM. Employee likes to take lunch from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm or from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm. These hours disrupts the day of other employees who have to release the employee for lunch. I have never experienced these hours taken for lunch before? Are these lunch hour times standard?

  14. hrlady Says:

    Hi Marie,
    We’re so sorry for the delayed response! These are very unusual times for lunch breaks given the hours worked. Keep in mind, some states now require employers to provide employees with lunch breaks and even specify when during an employee’s shift the lunch break must be taken. So, feel free to post a question on our blog with your state listed and we can research applicable laws for you. Absent state law, employers are able to require employees to take their lunch breaks at any time during their shifts.

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