Wage and Hour Issues: Meal Periods and Other Breaks
Breaks for Meals
Under Connecticut law, employees who work seven-and-a-half or more consecutive hours must be given a break of at least 30 consecutive minutes for a meal.
The break must be given at some point after the first two hours of work and before the last two hours.
The meal period need not be paid; if it is unpaid, employees must be free to leave the employer’s premises.
The employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating the meal. The employee is not relieved if he or she is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating.
An employee who works during a meal period must be compensated for the time worked, and the Labor Department will not consider the time to be a “break” as required by statute.
Employees who work fewer than seven-and-a-half consecutive hours in a day are not legally entitled to any break periods.
There are, however, some exceptions to the rule. The requirements described above do not apply in the following circumstances:
- Where the employer and employee enter into a written agreement providing for a different schedule of breaks.
- Where a collective bargaining agreement provides for different break periods.
- Where an employer chooses to provide at least 30 total minutes of paid break time within a seven-and-a-half hour work period; in other words, because the break is paid, the 30 minutes need not be consecutive, and can be given at any point during the work day.
- Where the employee is a professional, certified by the State Board of Education and is employed by a local or regional board of education to work directly with children.
- Where the Connecticut Labor Department exempts an employer from the requirements for one of the following reasons: (1) requiring compliance would be adverse to public safety; (2) the duties of the position may only be performed by one employee; (3) the employer employs fewer than five employees on a shift at a single place of business; or (4) the continuous nature of an employer’s operation (such as chemical production or research experiments) requires that employees be available to respond to urgent or unusual conditions and employees are compensated for break and meal periods.
Other than the 30-minute meal break requirement, there is no requirement under either state or federal law for employers to provide additional breaks.
In practice, however, many employers do provide short paid breaks during the day, even absent a collective bargaining agreement mandating such breaks.
Typically, employers provide one or two 10-15 minute paid breaks during the course of a standard work day.
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