No one likes working when they are tired or hungry, and productivity—as well as sanity—can suffer under such conditions. The law recognizes that in certain situations, employees deserve breaks to rest from work and eat a meal. Federal and state laws vary in the requirements for paid or unpaid breaks, however, so employees need to learn their rights in their particular states. A brief overview of the laws that apply to employers and employees in New York follows. If you have specific concerns or questions about your situation, please do not wait to call our office today.
Meal breaks – A meal break is generally considered to last 30 minutes or more, during which employees are relieved of their job duties so they can eat.
Are employees legally entitled to meal breaks? Under federal law, the answer is generally no. However, New York does require the following meal breaks:
- Employees working traditional day shifts are entitled to meal breaks between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Factory employees must get one-hour breaks while all other employees must get at least 30 minutes.
- Employees working shifts that begin between 1 p.m. and 6 a.m. that last at least six hours get meal breaks during the middle of their shifts, which must last one hour for factory workers and 45 minutes for everyone else.
- If a shift begins earlier than 11 a.m. and ends later than 7 p.m., an employer must allow an extra 20-minute meal break between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Are you entitled to be paid for your meal break? Employers are generally NOT required to pay employees for bona fide meal breaks, under federal or New York. Bona fide meal breaks are ones in which you are completely relieved from duty during your meal period. What does this mean in practice?
- An office employee who must stay at his or desk to answer emails or the phone during the break is, legally speaking, still performing work, and should be paid for that time.
- A factory work required to monitor her machine during her “break” is also probably still working and thus must be paid.
Rest breaks – While neither federal nor New York law requires short breaks from work, employers who provide them generally include these breaks as “time worked.” If employers allow breaks from five to 20 minutes, employers should properly pay employees in accordance with wage laws for this time as if they had worked.
Consult a New York City Wage and Hour Lawyer for Free Today
If your employer doesn't pay you for breaks, your lost wages can add up quickly—and you have the right to proper meal breaks and payment for rest breaks under New York wage laws. If you think your employer violated your rights, call a New York City wage attorney at Braverman Law, PC at (212) 206-8166 or write to us online for more information.