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Lunch Break Laws By State
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Employee Experience

Lunch Break Laws By State

Lunch Breaks Aren’t Always a Requirement for Employers

Most employers provide their employees with a paid or unpaid lunch break and some provide additional rest break periods. But did you know that breaks aren’t required by law? Federal law, anyway. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the law that governs wages and hours, does not mandate that employers provide meal or rest breaks to employees. Like many other federal laws in the human resources space, some states have stepped in to bridge the gap.

Here’s What You Need to Know

The federal law dictates that if an employee gets meal or rest breaks, the company does not have to pay them for that time unless:

  • State law requires paid breaks
  • The employee works through a break time (e.g., if they eat while working)
  • It’s a shorter break that lasts 20 minutes or less

Unions and Mandatory Rest Breaks

To add to the complexity around the legality of mandatory rest and meal breaks, union collective bargaining agreements can also provide for breaks even in states that don’t require them. For example, depending on the particular collective bargaining agreement, an employee might take a 30-minute unpaid lunch break and two paid 10-minute breaks during an 8-hour shift.

Does Your State Require Lunch Breaks?

To help employers, we’ve created a chart and table explaining meal break laws at work for every state. Watch out, though: Some states’ laws apply only to employees who are minors. Check states’ laws for additional provisions and exemptions. All hours worked must be consecutive.

lunch break laws united states map
StateCovered Employees Duration
Alabama 14- and 15-year-old employees who work more than 5 consecutive hours At least 30 minutes 
Alaska Under 18 scheduled to work for 5 consecutive hours without a break At least 30 minutes 
Arizona N/A N/A 
Arkansas Minors in the entertainment industry

They also must have at least a 10-hour break between work days
30 to 60 minutes 
California Non-exempt employees who work more than 5 hours a day

*Does not apply if the workday is only 6 hours or if waived by mutual consent. A second meal period is required after 10 hours but may be waived if workday isn’t longer than 12 hours and first meal period isn’t waived. (For more details, read our guide to California Compliance)

Employees who work for 3.5 hours or more get one paid rest break for every 4-hour period worked 
Meal: At least 30 minutes    

Rest: At least 10 consecutive minutes Note: California law does not permit rounding up time punch entries for meal breaks.
Colorado Employees covered by Colorado’s Minimum Wage Order who work 5+ hours

Paid rest break for every 4 hours worked
At least 30 minutes

At least one 10-minute rest break
Connecticut Non-exempt employees who work at least 7.5 hours At least 30 minutes 
District of Columbia N/A N/A 
Delaware Employees 18+ who work at least 7.5 hours

Employees under 18 scheduled to work 5 hours  
At least 30 minutes

At least 30 minutes 
Florida Non-exempt employees under 18 who work at least 4 hours  At least 30 minutes 
Georgia N/A N/A
Hawaii 14- and 15-year-old employees who work 5 consecutive hours At least 30 minutes 
Idaho N/A N/A 
Illinois Employees who work 7.5 hours or longer

Employees under 16 who work 5+ hours
At least 20 minutes

At least 30 minutes 
Indiana Employees under 18 who work 6+ hours 1-2 breaks totaling 30 minutes 
Iowa Employees under 16 who work 5+ hours  At least 30 minutes 
Kansas If the meal break is under 30 minutes, the employer must pay the employee At least 30 minutes if unpaid 
Kentucky Minors who work 4+ hours

Non-exempt employees 18+ who work 5+ hours  
Meal break of at least 30 minutes

Entitled to a reasonable period
Louisiana Non-exempt employees under 18 who work 5 consecutive hours At least 30 minutes unpaid 
Maine Employees who work 6+ hours  At least 30 minutes 
MarylandCertain retail employees†

Non-exempt employees under 18 who work 5 consecutive hours 
†15 minutes for a shift of 4-6 hours

†30 minutes for a shift of more 6+ hours

†30 minutes for 8+ with an additional

†15 minutes for every additional 4 working hours

At least 30 minutes
Massachusetts Non-exempt employees who work 6+ hours  At least 30 minutes
Michigan Employees under 18 who work 5+ hours  At least 30 minutes
Minnesota Employees who work 4+ hours

Employees who work 8+ hours 
Must be enough time to use the nearest restroom

Enough time to eat a meal 
Mississippi N/A N/A 
Missouri Minors in the entertainment industry Meal break after 5.5 hours of work plus a 15-minute rest break for every 2 hours of work 
Montana N/A N/A 
NebraskaEmployees of an assembling plant, workshop or mechanical establishment  At least 30 minutes per 8-hour shift 
Nevada Employees working 8+ hours

Employees who work 3.5+ hours 
At least 30 minutes

At least a 10 consecutive minute rest break every 4 hours
New Hampshire Employees who work 5+ hours  At least 30 minutes 
New Jersey Employees under 18 who work 5+ hours At least 30 minutes
New Mexico Employees are not entitled to meal or rest breaks.

If employers permit, rest breaks under 20 minutes must be paid. Meal breaks of 30+ minutes can be unpaid.  
>20 minutes – rest breaks

30+ minutes – meal breaks
New York Every person employed or in connection with a factory is allowed at least 60 minutes for lunch.

Every person employed or in connection with a retail or other establishment or occupation is allowed at least 30 minutes for the noonday meal.

An employee who works a shift of more than 6 hours is entitled to at least 30 minutes off during that time; every person employed for a period or shift starting before 11 a.m. and continuing later than 7 p.m. is entitled to an additional meal period of at least 20 minutes between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Every person employed more than 6 hours starting between the hours of 1 p.m. and 6 a.m. is allowed at least 60 minutes for a meal period when employed in or in connection with a factory; 45 minutes for a retail establishment.
At least 60 minutes

At least 30 minutes
North Carolina Employees under 16 who work shifts of 5+ hours At least 30 minutes 
North Dakota Employees who work 5+ hours At least 30 minutes 
Ohio Employees under 18 for every 5 hours worked At least 30 minutes 
OklahomaEmployees under 16 who work 5+ hours

Employees under 16 who work 8+ hours
At least 30 minutes

At least 30 minutes 
Oregon Employees for every 4 hours or greater part of 4 hours (beginning at 2 hours 1 minute) worked

Employees who have worked for 6+ hours
At least 10 minutes for each rest break for adults   At least 15 minutes for each rest break for employees under 18   At least 30 minutes
PennsylvaniaSeasonal farm workers for every 5 hours worked

Minors under 18 for every 5 hours worked
At least 30 minutes
Rhode Island Employees who work 6+ hours 20 minutes for employees who work 6 hours

30 minutes for employees who work 8 hours
South Carolina N/A N/A 
South Dakota N/A N/A 
Tennessee Employees who work 6+ hours  At least 30 minutes 
Texas N/A N/A 
Utah Employees under 18 for every 5 hours worked

Employees under 18 for every 3 hours or part thereof worked
At least 30 minutes

At least 10 minutes for each rest break. 
Vermont Employers must provide a “reasonable opportunity” to eat and use the restroom. This opportunity must be paid if it is less than 30 minutes N/A
Virginia Employees under 16 who work 5+ hoursAt least 30 minutes
Washington Employees ages 14 and 15 for every 2 hours worked

Employees ages 14 and 15 for every 4 hours worked

Employees ages 16 and 17 who work 5+ hours

Employees ages 16 and 17 get a rest break for every 4 hours worked

Employees are entitled to a meal break

Employees working 3+ hours longer than a normal work day get an additional meal break  

Employees who work 4+ hours get a paid rest break.
At least 10 minutes

At least 2 hours

At least 30 minutes

At least 10 minutes

At least 30 minutes

At least 30 minutes

At least 10 minutes for every 4 hours worked
West Virginia Employees who work 6+ hours get a meal breakAt least 20 minutes
Wisconsin Adult employees are not entitled to meal breaks, but the Wisconsin Administrative Code recommends that employers provide such breaks

Employees under 18 for every 6 hours worked 
At least 30 minutes
Wyoming N/A N/A 

Is my employer allowed to end my lunch break early due to staffing shortages or another workplace emergency?

Meal breaks are typically unpaid and not included in your work time. Your employer can’t force you to work during this break and shouldn’t interrupt your break with phone calls or work assignments. If they do, you might be able to recover to payment for the time you spent working. But, as with a lot of things, there’s an exception to the rule. If you’re the only employee on staff you might be requested to perform work duties, but this requires your agreement. If you request an uninterrupted break, your employer has to provide it.

Can an employer require an employee to take a break?

An employer cannot force an employee to take a break; however, when an employee refuses break or meal time, this should be documented.

What is the federal law on lunch breaks?

Federal law does not require meal or coffee breaks, but dictates that if an employee gets meal or rest breaks, the company does not have to pay them for that time unless:

  • State law requires paid breaks
  • The employee works through a break time (e.g., if they eat while working)
  • The break lasts 20 minutes or less

How many breaks do you get in an 8-hour shift?

The number of breaks an employee gets for an 8-hour shift depends on the state or industry the employee works in.

Paycor is not a legal, tax, benefit, accounting or investment advisor. All communication from Paycor should be confirmed by your company’s legal, tax, benefit, accounting or investment advisor before making any decisions.


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