Wage & Hour Issues: Meal Periods & Other Breaks
Meal periods must be given at some time after the first two hours of work and before the last two hours of work, although an employer and an employee may enter into a written agreement providing for a different schedule of meal periods.
The meal period need not be paid; if it is unpaid, employees must be free to leave the employer’s premises.
Under Connecticut law, an employer who provides thirty or more total minutes of paid rest or meal periods to employee within each 7-1/2 hour period need not provide an additional meal period.
The Department of Labor shall exempt any employer from the requirements if (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 less than five employees on a shift at a single place of business (only applies to that shift), (4) the continuous nature of an employer’s operation (such as chemical production or research experiments) requires employees be available to respond to urgent or unusual conditions and employees are compensated for break and meal periods.
Other than the meal period 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.
Meal Periods & Breaks as Hours Worked
Rest periods of short duration, usually 20 minutes or less, are common in industry (and promote the efficiency of the employee) and are customarily paid for as working time. These short periods must be counted as hours worked.
Bona fide meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more) generally need not be compensated as work time.
The employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating regular meals. The employee is not relieved if he/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.
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