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8 hour work day breaks and lunches

I have a company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Am I required to give all employees breaks and/or lunches throughout the day? If so, what are the requirements?

The best practice in HR is to give employees an unpaid meal break of 30 minutes or more, and two paid 10 or 15 minute rest breaks, in an 8 hour shift. Usually the rest breaks would occur at mid-morning and mid-afternoon. A number of studies have shown that employees who receive such breaks are more productive than employees who receive no breaks. In other words, the employees will accomplish more, at a lower cost to the employer, if they are given these breaks.

However, there is no federal or Louisiana law that requires employers to give meal or rest breaks to workers over the age of 18. Nineteen U.S. states have break laws that require unpaid meal breaks for virtually all employees. Eight of those states also require 10 or 15 minute paid rest breaks during the day. But Louisiana has no meal or rest break laws.

Under the federal FLSA or Fair Labor Standards Act, an employee need not be paid for a meal break of 20 minutes or more, when the employee is relieved of all duties. This is true, even if the employee is required to remain on the premises for the break. However, different rules apply to shorter rest breaks. Employees must be paid for any break that is less than 20 minutes, under this federal law.

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This entry was posted on Friday, January 16th, 2009 at 10:26 am and is filed under
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17 Responses to “8 hour work day breaks and lunches”

  1. Kari Lee Says:

    How about under CA Law?

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Kari Lee! California has the strictest employment laws in the land. Under California law, employees are entitled to a 30-minute meal break after 5 hours of work (unless the shift is only 6 hours long.) The meal break must be paid unless the employee is relieved of all duties and permitted to leave the premises. In addition, employees are entitled to a paid 10-minute rest break for each 4-hour work segment (or major portion thereof, meaning any work segment that is longer than 2 hours.)Check our archives for “California break” and you’ll find several articles. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  3. blue Says:

    I just happened to run across your blog while doing a Google search. I was surprised to recently find out that my state has no break laws.

    Some of my students who work for our largest seasonal employer (summer jobs in the tourism industry) told me that its a routine practice for them to work 12-16 hour days. And they were not guaranteed breaks if their attraction was busy. I was honestly shocked to hear this and thought we had come further as a society than to allow those kind of working conditions. I thought those issues were sorted out decades ago.

    Is this widespread in the US or do you think it is rare? Thanks for sharing if you have any comments.

  4. Caitlin Says:

    Hi blue! You are not the only person surprised by this. Unfortunately, it is true — in the majority of US states, employees are entitled to no breaks at all. Although we usually take a very pro-employer stance, we would like to see a federal law requiring breaks. Research has shown that breaks improve employee productivity.
    Nineteen US states have laws that require a meal break for almost all workers. The meal breaks average 20 or 30 minutes, and can usually be unpaid. Six of those states also require shorter 10-to 15-minute rest breaks –usually one every 4 hours. That leaves 31 US states with no break law at all.
    There is no federal break law for general industry. Under the federal FLSA or Fair Labor Standards Act, meal breaks longer than 20 minutes — if the employer opts to grant them — may be unpaid. Rest breaks of less than 20 minutes (again, if the employer opts to grant them) must be paid.
    The thought process is that most employers will do the right thing and grant workers reasonable working conditions — but the questions posted on this forum demonstrate that is not true. The second assumption is that employees can choose not to work for an employer with unreasonable working conditions — but again, in many cases that is not true, especially in this economy.
    Two exceptions: OSHA worker safety standards and US Department of Labor standards for some industries require breaks in certain occupations like airline pilots and truck drivers, for the public safety. OSHA requires that all employees be permitted to use the bathroom when nature calls and to drink water at their work station during hot weather. And, most states have break laws that apply to workers under the age of 16 and in some cases under the age of 18.
    We will say that it is hard to please everyone. We get almost as many comments from employees in California or Illinois objecting to the fact that the state “forces” them to take an unpaid meal break (when they would rather work straight through) as we do from those complaining about working 12 hours without a break. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  5. Lynn Says:

    What is the legal amount of hours that your employer can make you work in one day. I have on 10 different occasions this year been made to work up to 32 hours straight with no sleep and no more than 4 short breaks. I think this is inhumane, yes I plan on leaving this god forsaken job soon as I can, but what about the others that work there. There must be a workday law, OSHA maybe? Then drive 2 hours to get home, nodding at the wheel. That ain’t safe, what if I fell asleep and ran over a mom and three kids, would that give law makers a reason to make a hourly work day law. 16 hrs. a day should be the max in anybodys law book. We think this country is free from slavery, thats a laugh!

  6. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Lynn! Wow, that takes the cake! You win the award for the worst working conditions we have heard of — and not just this year — FOREVER!! Do you mind if we ask what type of work you do?

    Although we usually take a very pro-employer point of view, we have to agree that a 32-hour shift is just ridiculous.

    So you can imagine how much we hate to say that, unfortunately, it is probably legal. There is no federal law that limits the number of hours that an employee in general industry can be required to work, and very few state laws.

    The only federal law that applies is that the employer must pay overtime to hourly workers when they put in more than 40 hours in the payroll week under the FLSA, the Fair Labor Standards Act.

    OSHA has no worker safety standard for general industry that limits the shifts. Such regulations do exist for certain industries, such as truck drivers or airline pilots. Our first suggestion would be that you contact OSHA at and discuss this issue with them. Who knows, maybe they would make a new worker safety standard for your industry.

    Unfortunately, OSHA is going to say that it’s not the employer’s fault that you live 2 hours away. We are going to say, for your own safety as well as that of others, please take a 1 to 2 hour nap in your car before driving home after a long shift.

    And we wish you the best in finding a better job!! HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  7. chanel purse Says:

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  8. Caitlin Says:

    Thanks for reading, chanel!~ Caitlin

  9. katiebug Says:

    i think that the dept. of labor needs to change their laws about employees benefits when they work in public each state should be required to give any & all employes 2 fifteen min. breaks, 1 in the a. m. & 1 in the p. m. & also be required to give either one 1 hr. lunch break or two 30. min. breaks for working 8 hrs. or more

  10. Caitlin Says:

    Hi katiebug! You bring up a good point about breaks. However, the department of labor does not pass laws. They are passed by the state legislatures, or the federal Senate and House. The best way to change the law is to contact your representitives.
    Six states do require rest breaks for employees, in addition to a meal break, but the rest breaks are 10 minutes long. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  11. Traveller Says:

    Hi I love your article and it was so informational and I am definetly going to save it. I Have to say the Superb analysis you have done is trully remarkable.No one goes that extra mile these days? Bravo. Just one more suggestion you shouldget a Translator for your Worldwide Readers .

  12. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Traveller! Thanks for the kind words!~ Caitlin

  13. WorkerBee Says:

    Can you list the states that do require breaks and how they’re different?

    Thank you

  14. hrlady Says:

    Hi Worker Bee,
    This is a huge request since there are many states with different requirements for meal periods and/or breaks. A common difference among states is the minimum number of hours to be worked prior to requiring a meal period and/or break. If you have a specific state in mind we’d be happy to research the laws for you. Otherwise, the federal DOL provides a brief summary of state mandated meal periods,

  15. WorkerBee Says:

    Thank you for the link. Just to check my understanding: in Massachusetts, employees get a 1/2 hr unpaid lunch break for every 8 hr shift and no paid breaks?
    Thank you

  16. barbara guerra Says:

    Is new jersey required to give workers a lunch break in an 8 hour shift?

  17. hrlady Says:

    Hi Barbara,
    The mandatory break law in NJ only applies to minors under the age of 18 and they must be given a thirty (30) minute meal period after five (5) consecutive hours of work. Company policy dictates break and lunch periods for anyone over the age of 18.

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