Handling Meal and Break Times

To add up work time for minimum wage and overtime purposes, meals and breaks are treated differently. Generally, you have to include as working time, and to pay employees for, breaks or rest periods that last no longer than 20 minutes. If the break lasts more than 20 minutes and the employees are free to pursue independent activities, you don't have to pay them for it and you don't have to include it as working time.

Bona fide meals do not have to be included in computing work time under the FLSA. If, however, any of the following conditions are present, an employee must be paid for the meal period under the federal wage and hours law and the time must be included as working time:

State laws. Federal law does not require that breaks be given at all, but some state laws do. Some states specify certain requirements for both meal periods and rest periods and specify when breaks should occur and how long such breaks should be. A number of states have meal and rest period requirements for certain industries only. Click on your state on the map below to see what meal and rest break requirements you are subject to. States that are blue have no enacted laws regarding rest and meal periods.