Wherever you are working, whether at home or in person, your employer must grant you rest periods and meal breaks based on the number of hours you are expected to work in a shift. While the timing of when these breaks are utilized is negotiable, your right to take time for yourself is not.
The mandated rules regarding employee meals and breaks are governed by the following statutes. Please note, if you are subject to a collective bargaining agreement, then these laws may not apply to you.
First, employees are guaranteed breaks during their days.
Minn. Stat. § 177.253: An employer must allow each employee adequate time from work within each four consecutive hours of work to utilize the nearest convenient restroom.
- If you work four consecutive hours, you must be given time within those hours to rest. The timing of when you take this rest period may be determined between you and your employer, but your right to such a period is absolutely mandated.
Federal law also applies to these rest periods.
29 CFR 785.18: Rest periods of short duration, running from five minutes to about twenty minutes, are common in industry. They promote the efficiency of the employee and are customarily paid for as working time. They must be counted as hours worked. Compensable time of rest periods may not be offset against other working time such as compensable waiting time or on-call time.
- In other words, your employer may not require you to clock out for rest periods shorter than 20 minutes. While they may take steps to ensure that you do not take rest periods for longer than 20 minutes within a four hour span, they may not force you to clock out for each rest period you take.
Employees are also ensured a break time for meals when they are working for eight or more consecutive hours.
Minn. Stat. § 177.254: An employer must permit each employee who is working for eight or more consecutive hours sufficient time to eat a meal.
- If you work for eight or more hours in a row, your employer must give you an opportunity to take a lunch break. While the employer is not required to pay you during the time you are taking the lunch break, employers must provide sufficient, uninterrupted time for you to eat a meal. Similar to the laws regarding break periods, the employer may determine the time during the eight hours in which an employee may take this break.
While these are the most commonly cited statutes to explain workers’ rights in relation to break times, there are plenty of other laws applying to employees and their rights to breaks. For instance, in cases of employees who are breast-feeding, they must be given breaks to express milk. Further, for employees with disabilities, they may be able to obtain accommodations that include additional or longer break times.
If you believe your employer has been denying you legally mandated break periods, or, if you are interested in speaking with an attorney about possible disability accommodations, you will be well-served by speaking with one of our employment attorneys. We have extensive experience in fighting for employee rights and negotiating with employers, which gives us the confidence and skill to help employees navigate their potential claims.