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NYC Employment Lawyer > Blog > Employment Discrimination > Do I get meal and rest breaks during the workday?

Do I get meal and rest breaks during the workday?


Everyone needs to eat and use the restroom during a given day, even at work. Many employees are surprised to know that meal and rest breaks are not covered under federal law, and many employers would not offer them if not pushed to by custom. That said, New York law does require certain breaks be given by employers, and penalties can be assessed if an employer fails to allow their employees those moments.

Federal vs State Law

Federal labor law requires that employees be paid for any time in which they are actually working, no matter what that time is called on a schedule. If someone works through lunch, for example, it is still paid time because they are working. However, it only requires that employees be paid if they work on a ‘break’ – it does not actually require employers to provide any. Most employers do, because they understand that employees who work constantly will not be in top shape, but there is no federal law mandating that employers allow breaks.

Many states, however, have instituted laws requiring meal and rest or bathroom breaks. New York is one of them, though its law requires employers to provide meal breaks only – rest breaks are still a matter of employer discretion. Unlike in many other states, though, the allotted break can vary in terms of length and the point in the day when it can be taken; New York makes distinctions based on the industry one is in. For example, factory employees are allowed a 1-hour break sometime between 11am and 2pm, while retail or other ‘mercantile’ workers only get a 30 minute break sometime between 11am and 2pm.

Exceptions To The Rule

There are exceptions to New York’s rules that do not count as infringement upon one’s rights as an employee. One of the most common is when only one employee is on duty – since coverage must be constant in most businesses, it is considered appropriate for the employee to eat at their desk. The law would categorize this as paid work time, despite it being classified as lunch. If an employer tries to avoid paying an employee for these types of ‘breaks,’ this can be the basis for employees filing complaints and attempting to be paid for the hours they have worked.

Another way in which being granted or denied rest breaks can lead to complaints against an employer is in matters of disability. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires an employer to permit reasonable accommodations for qualified disabled workers or applicants, unless doing so would cause the employer ‘undue hardship.’ What is ‘reasonable’ or an ‘undue hardship’ can be very subjective, but a short rest break is an accommodation that most employers can make. Failure to do so may open an employer to scrutiny.

Call A New York City Based Employment Discrimination Lawyer

If you believe that your employer is not paying you for your meal and rest breaks, or that they are being denied for unreasonable causes, getting in touch with a New York City employment discrimination lawyer from Mansell Law, LLC may be the first step toward getting what you are owed. Call our offices today at 646-921-8900, or contact us via our web form, to set up a free consultation.




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