Work Breaks and Meal Periods

Work Breaks and Meal Periods

I cannot tell you the number of times that an employee has approached me and threatened to go to the Department of Labor because they were not allowed to take their fifteen (15) minute snack or smoke break and/or their meal period.  They are surprised when I tell them that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which regulates hours worked, does not require those popular breaks or meal periods.

While the Law does not require these coveted breaks, it does require that they count as compensable, or paid time.   Employee’s should remember is that such breaks are a privilege, not a right, so if there employer offers them, they are required to adhere strictly to the stipulations that their employer has established regarding the length of time away from the work area.  It employees fail to do so, they can be subject to corrective action if they repeatedly extend their breaks without their supervisor’s approval.  On the other hand, meal breaks are for the purpose of completely relieving the employee from work for at least thirty minutes, so that they may eat a regular meal.  Because meal breaks are different than snack or smoke breaks, they are considered non work time and are therefore unpaid.  The Law requires that an employee who answers phones, responds to emails, or performs almost any work-related duties while on “meal break,” is working while eating and should be compensated by their employer for that time worked.

Some states have their own regulations regarding rest periods and breaks. For a state-by-state breakdown of work breaks or mealtime, visit

For more information on this topic, visit the US Department of Labor’s website at

Image courtesy of google image search.

Author: FirstWeb

Who Is Cynthia B. Okonkwo? I am a wife and a mom who is a people person by heart. I live in metro-Atlanta and work as a Human Resources professional and have over twenty-four years experience in the field. My experience includes Compensation, Training, Recruiting, Employee Relations, Benefits, and Selection Procedure Development; however, Employee Relations is my passion because I enjoy interacting with others and helping them to solve problems. I became interested in Human Resources while on a work-study assignment during my sophomore year in undergraduate school. I chose management as my major because I was not quite certain what I wanted to do after college and I knew that an off-shoot of Business Administration was a safe, general choice that could help me get into a number of career fields. My work-study assignment was as an assistant to the campus Director of Career Services. There, I learned to make cold calls to area businesses to seek out employment opportunities for students and alumni. I also learned how to format vacancy announcements and resumes. Since writing had always been one of my strengths, I enjoyed my assignment so much that I requested to be reassigned to that department for most of the remainder of my undergraduate career. My Director also provided resources on job interview preparation and she allowed me to type resumes for students who did not have one and charge $1 per page to make a few extra bucks. I got a full-time job immediately after graduation, but it wasn’t in Human Resources; however, I had a Vice President who took me under his wings and allowed me to review employment applications for job openings at the Distribution Center where I worked, so this helped to strengthen my resume. It took me about two and a half years to secure my first full-time job in the field of human resources where I became a trained test developer for the State’s Government Merit System. From there my career has continued to grow. My blog was born out of my desire to write a book that provides practical job search tips and advice, from a spiritual, holistic perspective. After having drafted about three chapters, I got busy with grad school and obtained my MBA; got married and started a family. In 2013, I became SPHR (Sr. Professional in Human Resources) certified. I started seeing other people’s blogs, became interested and thought that blogging might be a great alternative, or spring board to completing my book, so here we are today. My sincere hope is that what I write will help someone. Enjoy!

Leave a Comment

All fields are required. Your email address will not be published.