Are Meals And Short Breaks Required Under New York Law?
The average worker usually labors under the impression that meal breaks and rest or smoke breaks are guaranteed by law. In reality, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to provide these amenities – though several New York state laws do mandate meal breaks. If you work a job in New York where you believe you should get both meal and rest breaks, it is important to be aware of your rights before moving forward with any protest.
Yes – But With Caveats
As of this writing, the FLSA does not require meal or rest breaks for employees – however, if an employer chooses to grant their workers these short periods of time, the law holds that meal breaks may not be counted as compensable work hours, while cigarette or bathroom breaks must count. The rationale is that lunch is a time when most employees are not engaged in work – while a short ‘rest’ break (anything less than 20 minutes, in general) is too brief to warrant it being off the clock.
New York employers do require a meal break for a working employee, though the amount of time taken (30 or 60 minutes) and the time of day at which it should be taken differs between industries. For example, a factory worker may take a 60-minute lunch break between 11am and 2pm, as well as a 60-minute meal break midway through any shift that starts past 1pm, provided it lasts 6 hours or more. A non-factory worker is only entitled to 30 and 45-minute breaks at specified points during their shift.
In some unusual situations, an employee may be denied a meal break, or asked to eat on the job without being relieved. When these rare moments occur, denying a worker their meal break is seen as acceptable as long as that worker is aware of the possible risk of this situation coming to pass and consents. If no one else is available to cover a counter or other customer-facing position, it is more common to ask an employee to eat at their desk or otherwise remain available for working.
The other exception has to do with what are referred to as ‘brown-bag’ lunches. In New York, this means a day where lunch is provided for employees in exchange for attending a conference or speech – usually some event relevant to the industry or to their company, though it is not required to be work-related. However, state law holds that such an event does not count as a meal period unless the employees voluntarily attend. If being present is required, an employee must receive a meal break later in the day. If they do not, this may be actionable.
Contact A New York Employment Lawyer
Many workers believe that the law gives them certain rights, when in reality, it may not, or if it does, there are caveats attached. If you believe that you have been unfairly denied a meal break or short rest break in New York, you may have more of a leg to stand on than if you tried to bring such a suit under federal law. The Mansell Law Office, LLC has experience in these types of cases, and is ready to put that knowledge to work for you. Call our New York City meals & breaks lawyers today at 646-921-8900 for a free consultation.