Meal Breaks for Employees

Minnesota law requires that an employer “must permit each employee who is working for eight or more consecutive hours sufficient time to eat a meal.”  See Minn. Stat. § 177.254.  While meal breaks may either be paid or unpaid, employers should be careful not to require non-exempt employees to perform work during unpaid meal breaks.

For a meal break to be unpaid, an employee “must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating regular meals.”  See Minn. R. § 5200.0120; see also 29 C.F.R. § 785.19.  Thirty minutes or more is ordinarily long enough for a bona fide, unpaid meal break.  A shorter period may be adequate under special conditions.  It is not necessary that an employee be permitted to leave the premises during a meal break if the employee is otherwise completely freed from his or her duties.  On the other hand, if an employee is not “completely relieved from duty” or is “frequently interrupted by calls to duty,” the meal break should be treated as work time, and the employee should be paid.

About Michael Miller

Michael is a Chambers-rated attorney in Briggs and Morgan's Employment, Benefits, and Labor group and is head of the firm’s Employment Law Counseling and Compliance practice group. He has 25 years experience counseling employers to prevent unwanted litigation and advises companies of ongoing changes in federal, state and local employment law. Michael advises employers in all areas of employment law including discipline and discharge, leaves of absence, wage and hour compliance, non-compete and confidentiality agreements, affirmative action plans, background checking, and drug/alcohol testing. For Michael's full bio, click here.

Posted on September 6, 2011, in Wage and Hour and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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