Meal and Rest Breaks

You may not require an employee to work for a period of more than five hours per day without providing him/her with a 30-minute unpaid meal break. You owe the employee one hour of pay if the employee is unable to take one or more meal breaks.

You must also give nonexempt employees an opportunity to take a 10-minute paid rest break for every four hours worked, or major fraction thereof. You owe the employee one hour of pay if the employee is unable to take one or more rest breaks.

An employee who is not provided with the full 30-minutes for a meal break, or the full-10 minutes for a rest break, is entitled to the penalty as well.

The maximum penalty for missed meal breaks and missed rest breaks is two hours of pay per day, no matter how many meal or rest breaks were missed in the day.

The additional pay for missed meal or rest breaks must be included in the employee's next paycheck.

In addition, an employer cannot require an employee to work during any “recovery period” taken to avoid heat-related illness. Rest and recovery periods are paid breaks and count as hours worked. For more information, see Heat Illness.