If your employees have been working on their feet all day, they probably look forward to taking a break, for meals or to simply rest. But when you have deadline to meet and time is tight, you may be wondering whether that’s really necessary.
The answer is not as simple as you might think.
What an employer is legally allowed to do differs from country to country and even in the United States, from state to state. Answering the question really depends on where you are located.
2. One Size Does Not Fit All
In South Carolina for example, a quick search of their Department of Labor information reveals that an employer is not required to give meal breaks or rest breaks.
Now compare the South Carolina experience to a similar search of the California Department of Industrial Relations. In California all employees are entitled to a meal break after 5 hours, but if you only work 6 hours in total you and your employer can mutually agree to waive the meal break requirement.
3. Additional Considerations
California also has different criteria regarding what is permissible depending on whether the employee is “on duty” during the meal break, whether the employee is required to stay on site during the meal break, and whether the employee is working in the motion picture industry. The reference to the motion picture industry is of course a nod to one of the state’s most visible industries.
Another state’s wage and hour laws may include special language to reflect their agriculture heritage, an industrial heritage, or a particular industry (the way California does). That special language could impose additional legal requirements on you if that’s where your business is located.
4. Internet Searches
If you want to find out more about the requirements in your state, start your Internet search by using the name of your state and the phrase “department of labor” as search terms. Once you find the correct website search for “meal breaks” and see what pops up. But keep in mind that whatever you find may be incomplete. There could always be some hidden loophole that only a local licensed attorney who specializes in this subject knows about.
To be certain about whether your business can legally keep employees on their feet for 8 hours during meal and rest breaks the real answer lies in speaking with a licensed attorney in your area who knows all the quirks of your specific state wage and hour laws and can match those requirements to your specific job and industry. Legal information on the web can help you learn concepts, provide tips, and offer strategies; but, legal information is not the same as legal advice and should never be a substitute for customized advice from a local attorney who can represent your best interests.