It might come as a surprise to some that federal law does not require meal time breaks or periodic rest breaks for employees. However, many states do require employers to offer meal and/or rest breaks. As far as federal law is concerned, if you offer your employees short breaks (typically 5 to 20 minutes in length), the time taken must be paid time, meaning you should not require your employees to clock out for breaks. However, meal breaks (typically lasting at least 30 minutes) are not considered work time, and therefore are not required to be included in paid time calculations.
Regardless of the lack of federal regulation on the subject, most employers do offer lunch breaks due to the positive impact on both morale and productivity, and many offer rest breaks as well. If you are considering either excluding lunch breaks or making them optional, you should not allow the lack of federal law on the subject dictate your company policy without first checking your state laws on the matter. Nearly half of the states require meal breaks and a handful require rest breaks. Also, you should keep in mind specific religious or health considerations could require you to offer rest or lunch breaks as well. If you do business in industries or states where employers are bound by agreements with unionized workforces, you should also consult any collective bargaining agreements which might require standard breaks.
For more information on workplace policies or FLSA requirements, contact Spirit HR’s team of professionals at 405-951-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.