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NYC Employment Lawyer > Blog > Meals Breaks > Am I Entitled To Meal And Rest Breaks Under New York Law?

Am I Entitled To Meal And Rest Breaks Under New York Law?


Many employees are surprised to learn that U.S. federal law does not guarantee them the right to meal or rest breaks during a work day. Many states have enacted laws that do, New York among them, but some of the details surrounding those breaks are still misunderstood. In some situations, unethical employers may try to avoid paying employees for break times, which is not always permissible. If you believe you are owed pay from your employer over breaks, consulting an attorney may be a good idea.

Meal Breaks Are Required

New York law as of this writing mandates that a meal break be granted by employers, but short rest breaks are not required. However, if an employer does allow rest breaks, federal law mandates that employees must be paid for that time – the rationale behind such a decision essentially being that the employee is still within the scope of their employment and is not outside the employer’s control long enough for the break to be non-compensable.

These rules apply to every employee who is covered by New York State’s labor law, though special regulations do apply to factory workers (who may start or end their shifts at odd times). In some situations, employers may apply to the state Department of Labor to shorten their employees’ meal break, but this must be approved before being implemented. If you suspect that your employer is simply shortening your meal break without permission, it is possible to check with the Department of Labor whether they have been permitted to do so or not.

Spotting Employer Violations Can Be Difficult

If an employer does decide to act unethically regarding meal and rest breaks, most of the ways it may happen are quite subtle. For example, one common way that employers avoid paying employees correctly is by requiring what are known as ‘brown bag’ lunches – lunch periods where employees listen to a speaker or presentation, and are not permitted to leave. If these speaking events or presentations do occur, they must be treated as work time, and thus they must be paid, since employees are very clearly within the scope of their employment during such an event.

Another way employers may violate wage law with regard to meal and rest breaks involves those employees who may have other reasons to take breaks. For example, nursing mothers are permitted under federal law to have a reasonable break time in which to express milk for up to one year after the child’s birth, and it is too common for employers to treat these breaks as unpaid. The same may be true for disabled employees who may require periodic rests as reasonable accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) – such breaks must be compensable if they are offered, but many employers try to duck out of this requirement.

Call A New York Employment Lawyer Today

No matter what may be required by law, meal and rest breaks help to give employees the energy to do a better job at work. If you believe that you may be underpaid and it is related to meal and rest breaks, calling a New York City meals & breaks attorney from Mansell Law, LLC may help to get some of your questions on the matter answered to your satisfaction. Call our offices at 646-921-8900 for a free consultation.



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