According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), “Federal law does not require lunch or coffee breaks.” Some states, however, do have certain break and lunch time requirements, including California, Colorado, Washington, and New York, to name a few. Here are a few examples of state break requirements:
- California: A half hour (30 minutes) break is given if the shift is longer than five hours, except when the work day will be completed in six hours or less.
- Connecticut: ½ hour at some time after the first 2 hours and before last 2 hours for employees who work 7½ consecutive hours or more.
- Illinois: At least 20 minutes, no later than 5 hours after the start of the work period, to employees who work 7 ½ continuous hours or more.
- Massachusetts: 30 minutes, if work is for more than 6 hours during a calendar day.
- North Dakota: ½ hour, if desired, on each shift exceeding 5 hours.
States that have not adopted their own break requirements follow the federal DOL guidelines, which leaves the decision up to the employer.
Managing breaks and lunch times can be challenging for businesses in states without specific guidelines to follow — how much time should you provide? How are break times effectively enforced? When should they be taken? And for employers in states with break requirements, what happens when they aren’t followed? What sort of documentation is required? And what role does the employee take in all of this, regardless of which state they live in?
At TIMECO, we have developed an employee time clock app that makes it easy for both employees and employers to track paid rest breaks as well as unpaid lunch breaks. We understand the unique challenges of employers who have to manage payroll and state laws, and who want to create a work environment where employees are happy and performing at their best. Our time tracking software is customizable to fit your needs, easy to use, and can help businesses in a wide range of industries, from healthcare organizations to construction companies. Contact TIMECO today for a free demo of the best employee time clock app available.
Complying With State Break Requirements
The most important part of complying with state requirements is to fully understand what your state requires. You can learn more about state break requirements on the Department of Labor website and find out what your specific state requires.
Aside from being aware of requirements, it is important to remain compliant. Even though most break and lunch laws are fairly straightforward, some businesses still make costly mistakes.
- Not Following State Requirements: This can be especially tricky for franchise organizations with locations in various states. Some locations may not require breaks, while others do, making it essential for payroll managers to use the best employee time clock app that allows for specific state requirements.
- Not Properly Documenting Break Policies: For employers who aren’t required to provide a paid break time but chooses to do so anyway, the DOL requires that the policy is clearly documented for all employees to read and understand. This will prevent any confusion and will ensure that employees are following the established guidelines.
- Making Employees Clock Out for Breaks: When an employer chooses to provide a break that is 20 minutes or less, that time must be paid and must be included when determining overtime pay. Another benefit of TIMECO’s employee time clock app is that it lets employees record their break time. Managers can then go in and review the time punches so that the breaks aren’t abused. Not properly recording paid breaks can result in fines.
Penalties for Noncompliance
Penalties for noncompliance of state paid break laws will depend on the specific situation, the severity of the offense, how many employees were involved, and the duration of the offense. For specific penalties, employers can contact their state’s labor office.
Breaking the law will most likely lead to fines, but that’s not the only repercussion that could affect your business. Your employees can also be significantly impacted by not offering or not enforcing paid breaks.
The Importance of Breaks on Mental Health and Productivity
As an employer, have you noticed that when your employees feel that they are too busy to take a break, that they are actually less productive? Here are a few incredible benefits of taking a break, for both mental health and productivity.
- Movement Breaks: For office workers, taking a break means more than just stopping work, but actually getting up, walking away from the desk, and taking a physical break. When employees take at least a five-minute break to stretch, do yoga, or climb stairs, they have a lower risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Taking a five-minute break every hour helps eliminate pain.
- Restore Motivation: This is especially true for long-term goals or larger work projects. Taking a break allows our brains to disconnect from the topic for a period of time. When it’s time to get back to the task, you can attack it with renewed motivation.
- Increases Productivity: When employees are focused on a certain task for extended periods of time, it can lead to stress and exhaustion. Allowing yourself a break will help you refresh and replenish, allowing the brain to be more productive and creative. Taking a regular break can help increase productivity by more than 6 percent.
As you can see, taking breaks during work is not only healthy for employees, but is sometimes required by law. When employees don’t take breaks, it can cost a business a significant amount of money, especially when they are required to by law. Taking breaks can help businesses prevent fines, mental burnouts, and even prevent physical ailments.
At TIMECO, we want to help business owners effectively manage the time tracking of their employees. Our employee time clock app includes a variety of features, including scheduling capabilities, mobile use, leave requests, daily reviews for HR or payroll managers, biometrics, and even geofencing We strive to make employee time tracking easy. Get in touch with our team to learn more!