Yakima County Development Association - Meal & Rest Break Laws - What Employers Need to Know

Jean Brown

Article by:
Jean Brown

Jean publishes a blog called the Enterprise Corner.  It features articles on entrepreneurship, local industry trends, manufacturing news and periodic ‘toolbox’ articles showcasing assistance, incentives and other resources for local businesses.



Meal & Rest Break Laws - What Employers Need to Know

April 05, 2013

9497543-time-for-a-break-lunch-break-of-coffee-break-or-just-a-time-out-for-relaxation-and-enjoyng-free-time Recently Gary Lofland, with Halverson Northwest spoke to our Industry Roundtable group on the topic of meal and rest break laws due to recent court cases close to home and across the U.S.  He explained that all employee’s need rest and meal breaks during work hours and the law stipulates standards for these breaks, including whether your employees should be paid for them or not. Here’s what you need to know:

The Federal  Fair Labor Standards Act of the U.S. Department of Labor and State of Washington provide these regulations: Rest breaks must be paid and regulations stipulate a 10-minute rest period for each 4-hour work period, scheduled as near as possible to the midpoint of each work period. Employees may not be required to work more than 3 hours without a rest period. Meal period rgone for lunchegulations require a ½ hour be allowed but not paid, if the work period is more than 5 consecutive hours. The meal break is to be given not less than 2 hours or more than 5 hours from beginning of a shift.  Meal periods are counted as paid worktime if an employee is required to remain on duty on premises or at a prescribed worksite.  An additional ½ hour is allowed for employees working 3 or more hours beyond the regular workday, to be used before or during their overtime schedule. Inconsistencies and lack of communication can trip you up and open a window for legal issues.  Remember to go over your companies policies and don’t leave room for guessing or manipulation that will cause you to violate these regulations.  For example, in Washington a meal break must be provided no later than the end of the employee’s fifth hour of work. So giving employees the option of skipping lunch to get out of work early is breaking the law.  Or employers have been known to come under the spotlight for permitting certain workers to take frequent (paid) cigarette breaks, while other employees do not.  Caution and communication is the key to avoiding legal pain.

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