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Federal and Arizona lunch and break laws

What are the state and or federal laws in Arizona regarding lunch breaks and on the clock short breaks?
Is there such a guideline for an employer to follow?

There are no Arizona or federal guidelines for meal periods or breaks.

Nineteen U.S. states require that employers give meal breaks to nearly every employee. A few of those states also require that employers give workers shorter breaks. However, Arizona has no break law at the state level, and there are no federal laws requiring breaks in general industry.

The best practice in most industries is for employers to give workers one unpaid meal break of 30 minutes or more plus two 10 or 15 minute paid breaks on a shift of 8 hours or more. Research has shown that employees who are given such breaks are actually more productive — they accomplish more, in less time. However, there is no law that requires this in Arizona.

Under the federal FLSA or Fair Labor Standards Act, an employee must be paid for breaks that are shorter than 20 minutes. The employee need not be paid for a meal break that is longer than 20 minutes, if the employee is relieved of duties during that time.

OSHA standards require that workers be permitted to drink water and to use the restroom when nature calls. Different standards apply in some specialized professions such as long-haul truck drivers and airline pilots.

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39 Responses to “Federal and Arizona lunch and break laws”

  1. wendy Says:

    If i work six hr do I have to take a lunch? I thought it was eight hrs then take a lunch? what about breaks?

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Hi wendy! There is no federal or Arizona law that an employer MUST give you a lunch break on a 6 or 8 hour shift. However, the employer CAN create the policy that employees on a shift of any length must take a meal break. As long as that break is 20 minutes or more, and the employee is relieved of work duties, it is unpaid.
    Employees who fail to take the meal break can be disciplined or terminated for not following company policy. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  3. Tammy Says:

    Is there a maximum amount of time you can be required to be clocked out. I work 4 hours and am requred to
    clock out for 2 hours + lunch. This was on a Saturday.
    During the week we are lunched in excess of 1 hour

  4. cara Says:

    My question is twofold:

    1)Is there a regulation that states how many consecutive days an employee can be worked without a day off?

    2)If your shift is in excess of 10 hours, and still no breaks are allowed, because we live in Arizona, there is nothing we can do about it?

    Thanks for any feedback/assistance you can offer!

  5. Caitlin Says:

    Hi cara! 1) No. Several states have laws that an employee must be given one day per week off. Arizona does not.
    2) Correct, there is no break law in Arizona. You could contact state representitives to have them pass a break law. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  6. Gayla Pinena Says:

    I enjoy visiting daily to see your musings. I have your page bookmarked on my daily read list!

  7. Caitlin Says:

    Thanks for reading, Gayla!~ Caitlin

  8. Dakota Says:

    Hi, my company has a policy that requires employees to take a thirty minute break when scheduled six hours or more. Now if I do not have time, or am unable to take a lunch because I am performing my job duties. Is it legal for them to take the thirty minutes out of my check?

  9. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Dakota! No, this is not legal. Under both Arizona and federal minimum wage laws, the employer must pay you for all time worked. The employer can discipline or fire you for not taking the break, but when you work for 6 hours you must be paid for 6 hours. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  10. DLC Says:

    I have a newer emplyee who has been taking one hour lunch breaks instead of the 30 minutes provided by our company. When confronted, his response was that State AND Federal law provides him a mandatory 15 minute break in the morning and afternoon so he added it to his lunchtime. Do we need to put some sort of policy in place to eliminate this from being an issue or can it be verbal a notice? (Personally, I think anyone who even has a job right now should be counting their blessings)

  11. Caitlin Says:

    Hi DLC! We agree with you on all counts!! a)There is no Arizona or federal law that requires meal breaks or rest breaks for an employee in general industry, period. Call the employees bluff by asking him to show you a copy of the law. Nineteen U.S. states have meal break laws — Arizona is not one of them. 2) Even if there were such a law, you are not required to allow the employee to combine his breaks in this way. The 6 states that do requie rest breaks in addition to meal breaks specifically prohibit it. Again, Arizona is not in that group — no rest breaks are required. 3) You are well within your rights to discipline this employee for violating company policy by taking a one-hour meal break. No written policy is necessary. We would be tempted simply to terminate the employee. Anyone who is giving you this many problems so early in his tenure is not going to improve, and is obviously not interested in working. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  12. irene Says:

    Hi! My husband works 6:30 to 3:00 and just recently had his work hours extended a half hour working 6:30 TO 3:30 due to the owner finding out that the employees were getting paid for the two 15 minute breaks on top of the half hour lunch that they were getting. Can they do that?

  13. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Irene! If you husband is covered by the federal minimum wage law, the FLSA, he must be paid for any breaks shorter than 20 minutes. If he works from 6:30 am to 3:30 pm with a 30-minute unpaid break, he must be paid for 8.5 hours per day and overtime if he works more than 40 hours in the payroll week. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  14. David Johnson Says:

    what are the state and federal laws regarding the intentional release of employees private matters such as disciplinary actions taken against employee for attendance in west virginia

  15. Caitlin Says:

    Hi David! There are no state or federal laws that specifically require an employer to keep disciplinary matters secret from coworkers or the general public. Some companies have a policy requiring confidentiality in disciplinary matters. In that case, the employee could take the matter up with HR or upper management.

    If the employer is disclosing private medical information, that may be a violation of ADA or HIPAA. But simply the fact that an employee was absent, or that disciplinary measures were taken, is not protected information.

    If the employer is spreading falst information, an employee can hire an attorney and sue for libel or slander. Normally those laws do not prevent the spread of accurate information. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  16. Tim Says:

    Hi. My employer has a location that has no lunch/break facilities i.e refrigerator or microwave and just a porta-john. They say that if we choose to go to a location on our unpaid lunch that has those facilities that our transport time, even if we have to walk there and back it is part of our unpaid 30 minutes and they will provide no transport. Is this legal?

  17. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Tim! Unfortunately this is legal in Arizona and most other states. A few states like California have a law that the break time must be a “net” 30 minute, meaning 30 minutes not counting travel. However, in most states including Arizona, the employer can give workers a total of 30 minutes for meal breaks.

    These working conditions are very common in some industries such as construction. Employees usually handle this by bringing a lunch to work and using the portapotty. There is no law that the employer must provide transportation to and from lunch. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  18. Steve Says:

    My Arizona employer has implemented a policy that all employees are to start working a mandatory 9.5 hr day. We are forced to take one hour (unpaid) for lunch and two 15 minute breaks (unpaid). We are salaried employees. Is this legal? thanks.

  19. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Steve! If you are exempt salaried employees, almost anything is legal. The employer could require you to work an 18-hour day, 7 days per week, without any meal or rest breaks. As long as you are paid your usual salary each week, this is legal.

    If you are a salaried non-exempt employee, and the employer is covered by the federal minimum wage law, you are entitled to overtime when you work more than 40 hours per week. That law, the FLSA, also requires that you be paid for any breaks shorter than 15 minutes. So the employer can require that you take a 60 minute unpaid meal break, and two 15-minute rest breaks, but the rest breaks must be paid. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  20. Samantha Says:

    If you are an hourly employee and scheduled to work a 8.5 hour day which includes a 30 min unpaid lunch, does the employee have the right to opt out of taking the lunch and just work a straight 8 hour day? or is this against the law?

  21. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Samantha! The answer to both of your quesions is “no.” Arizona has no break law, which means there is no law that requires employers to give breaks to employees in the state.

    However, any Arizona employer can establish a policy that employees are required to take a 30 minute unpaid meal break. The employer can discipline or terminate any employee who does not comply. So there is no right to skip the meal break in Arizona. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  22. Lgr Says:

    I work 9 hours 8 is paid and 1 hour is lunch break. I have two scheduled break times. One before lunch and one after. They tell me when to break. I also get 5 minutes of personal time to use throught the day. This is fire bathroom and water emergency. My concern is it takes a minute to walk bathroom. Is this enough under osha guidelines? I live in az. Thank u!

  23. Caitlin Says:

    Hi lgr! No, limiting bathroom breaks to five minutes per day (or two visits per day) is probably not sufficient. The need for bathroom breaks varies from person to person. Unless these working conditions are dictated by the nature of the work, this is not appropriate. You would be within your rights to report this to OSHA. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  24. Michael Says:

    My employer has a policy that states that during our shift we will get 2 15 minute breaks(paid) and a lunch break of no less than 30 but no longer than 60 minutes each day (unpaid). This is not an issue, however I work in the field and have scheduled appointments that have a varying amount of time at each appointment. My question is twofold:
    1. Barring any mention of it in the company break and lunch policies is there anything that requires me to take a lunch or break at a predetermined time. Since I work with no other employees and if I maintain my scheduled appointments could I take my lunch at the end of my day, or the beginning?
    2. I have been taking my lunches towards the end of the day due to, among other reasons, being outdoors in the heat during the summer months and was recently notified by a manager that he was altering my time to reflect that I did not take my lunch since he did not feel it appropriate to take a lunch outside of a specific window. I have electronic records that show me accurately clocking out and taking the lunch break during my shift (and at the accurate time when I am doing so)however the fact the this manager is modifying my work records to indicate that I did not clock out throws my reporting off and gives me unapproved overtime as well as affecting performance numbers which could affect my potential bonus.

    Thank you, in advance for your response.

  25. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Michael! The short answer is no, you do not have the right to take your lunch break when you please. This is determined by the employer, not the employee. In Arizona there is no law that the employer must provide meal or rest breaks. If the employer does provide such breaks, the employer determines the policies surrounding them. The majority of employers will not permit an employee to take a meal break at the beginning or end of the shift. This is a reasonable policy.

    A meal break near the middle of the shift has been shown to increase productivity. However, meal breaks near the beginning or end of the shift reduce productivity. So yes — the employer can set a window of time for the meal break and discipline or terminate any employee who fails to comply. We agree that the supervisor should not be changing the payroll records to make them less accurate, but the alternative is probably to let you go. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  26. Jane Says:

    Hi! I live in Arizona and was not given my lunch until the 30 minutes before the end of my 8.5 hour shift. I am 2.5 months pregnant and it is unhealthy for me and my baby to go without food and since there is no law requiring an employer to give lunch then what can I do?

  27. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Jane! This is a tough problem. One option would be to pack healthy snacks and eat them while working. Obviously, you can request your lunch break earlier although the employer is not required by law to agree. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  28. Griss Says:

    Just yesterday i received a warning because i took a total amt of break time of 29:12 during a scheduled shift of 10 hrs. I did take over 30 min lunch (unpaid), leaving 9:36 of work time. Is it right for my employer to warn me for going over my allowed 20 minute break time? I believed 2 breaks are okay for an 8 hour shift but 3 breaks should be allowed for a 10 hr shift. Im in Arizona.

  29. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Griss! Unfortunately, this is a matter of company policy rather than employment law in Arizona. There is no Arizona law that requires an employer to give meal or rest breaks to workers. If the employer chooses to give such breaks, the employer determines the policies surrounding them.
    In your case, the employer has determined that employees are allowed to take 2 10-minute breaks (plus a 30-minute lunch) during a 10-hour shift. We agree that this is not ideal, but legally the employer does not have to give any rest or meal breaks at all. A few states, such as California and Washington require rest breaks for all employees, but Arizona does not. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  30. Debbie Says:

    My husband works for a company in Arizona, however the company Home Office is out of state. He was just handed a letter letting them know they are no longer allowed the 2/10 minute breaks and they are only allowed to take the 30 minute unpaid lunch. On top of that they work 9-10 hours a day. How is that right? I see on here that Arizona has no law, but what if the Corporate office is in a different state?

  31. Caitlin Says:

    HI Debbie! Unfortunately, it does not matter where the company headquarters is located. As long as your husband was hired in Arizona and works in Arizona, he is legally an Arizona employee covered by Arizona employment laws.
    We agree that eliminating the rest breaks is not right. Studies show that an employee who takes a 10 or 15 minute break at mid-morning and mid-afternoon is actually more productive than an employee who works straight through. However, as you know, because Arizona has no break law, this is legal.

    OSHA worker safety standards require that employees be permitted to use the toilet when nature calls, but this does not include rest or coffee breaks for other purposes. Sorry, wish we could be more help. ~ Caitlin

  32. moe Says:

    if i have to spend my lunch in the office because there is no one to cover me, should my company take 30 minutes off daily from my pay check?

  33. Caitlin Says:

    Hi moe! That depends upon the circumstances. In every state, if you are required to work during lunch, you are entitled to payment for that time. Even if you are required to be available at your work station for phone calls, etc. that counts as work.
    However, in most states, if you are relieved of your work duties, your 30-minute meal break can be unpaid. This is true, even if the employer requires that you remain on the premises during your meal break.
    The federal FLSA and various state minimum wage laws require that the employer pay you for all time worked. If you are required to remain on duty during lunch because there is no one to relieve you, then you are entitled to payment for that time. If this results in you working more than 40 hours in the payroll week, you are entitled to overtime. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  34. Juju Says:

    I think it is sick that there is NO law for lunches and a break… My daughter works for a pizza place and she works a lot always there on time.. Goes in when needed and never calls in sick…. The turn over in new imployees is crazy … There in one day and out the next … My daughter keeps hanging in hoping it will get better and do too the lack of jobs for kids are slim too none!!!!! It just makes me sick

  35. hrlady Says:

    Hi Juju,

    Although the U.S. Department of Labor does not require break and meal periods, some states do require employers to provide for breaks and meal periods. You should check the state in which you live for information regarding required breaks and meal periods.

    The federal government takes the position that break and meal periods are a matter between the employer and employee or in some instances state rules and regulations.

    In addition, once a child is 18 years of age there are no federal child labor rules. Work rules that apply to adults apply to employees age 18 and older.

    Thank you for reading the

  36. Gregg Says:

    Where I work we give a 10 minute break for every two hours worked and the break is paid for unless they take longer than the 10 minutes. After reading that FLSA states that any “rest breaks” under 20 minutes must be paid, are we within out rights to dock an employees pay for taking longer than the alotted break time per our companies policy?

  37. hrlady Says:

    Hi Gregg,

    Depending on your state laws, the United States Department of Labor states “Federal law does not require lunch or coffee breaks (USUALLY lasting 5 to 20 minutes), federal law considers the breaks as compensable work hours that would be included in the sum of hours worked during the work week and considered in determining if overtime was worked.

    UNAUTHORIZED extensions of authorized work breaks need not be counted as hours worked when the employer has expressly and unambiguously communicated to the employee that the authorized break may only last for a specific length of time, that any extension of the break is contrary to the employer’s rules and any extension of the break will be punished”.

    You are within your rights legally with the way you are handling breaks.

    Thank you for reading the

  38. Chany Says:

    I have a medical walk in office. Patients come in anytime so a lunch break cannot be set. workers do not bring their lunch so one of them has to go buy the lunch. This time-about 30 minutes or a bt more is paid for. then they sit down to eat together or singly for about 45 minutes sometimes. Ten minutes to heat and prepare meal then another 30 minutes. Bathroom breaks for some are about 10 minutes several times.
    all paid for. I agree that a meal break is better for productivity but according to law and comments 30 minutes paid with reasonable bathroom breaks should be okay Please comment. Are employees getting to much time for lunch including buying time, preparation of meals etc?

  39. hrlady Says:

    Hi Chany,
    Assuming you’re in a state that doesn’t have meal period or rest break mandates, then offering them is at you’re discretion. Meal periods and rest breaks are necessary for employees’ well being and productivity. It’s great you recognize that. Common meal periods are 30-60 minutes. It really depends on the employer and industry. So, consider how long your employees really need. Being a walk in medical facility, I’m assuming employees can be pulled from the lunches at any time. So, are they really taking a full 45 minutes or so of lunch? Is some of the time being spent working like answering calls or addressing patients’ needs? Usually, 30 minutes for a meal period is acceptable. Just keep in mind that time is usually for an employee’s entire meal period including travel, preparation, eating etc… So, if you know that employees don’t regularly bring their lunches for whatever reason then expect to have some backlash from them or consider adjusting your policy as necessary. HTH!

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