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.