Florida Laws for Employee Breaks

By Roger Golden
employee breaks, law
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A common misconception made by employees is that they are entitled to breaks, or that the law requires their employers to give them. The fact of the matter is that the government does not have any such laws, and that any breaks your employer provides are optional. Most employers offer a lunch break, and many provide for breaks during the shift, but these are always given out of consideration for the workers, and are usually unpaid breaks.

Defining breaks

The only law regarding employee breaks is that an unpaid break period should not be interrupted with job-related talk or actual work. By law, a break is a period of time during which the employee is not required to perform or discuss the current work tasks. If the office manager wants to discuss an office-related project during your break, he or she is required by law to pay you for the break, because you are not being allowed to put the job out of your mind and enjoy your break. In this respect, unpaid breaks may be better for the employee because a paid break can be interrupted at will.

Federally designated breaks

Some occupations are required to take mandatory breaks from their jobs. Truck drivers, for instance, are required to park their vehicle and take a break for a minimum number of hours during each 24-hour period. The same is true of airline pilots, and some other occupations where fatigue could be considered an important factor in terms of public safety. The breaks are set up to protect the common good of the people, not to give a particular workforce some sort of additional benefit or incentive.

Meal breaks

Meal breaks are not required by law, but have become a common practice at most jobs. Most employers have a mid-shift break, usually called the lunch break. This time is usually unpaid, but the individual is free to do with it as they please, even leaving the place of employment as long as they are back on site by the time the break has ended. Construction and labor-intensive occupations generally receive a 30 minute break, while office workers, who may require additional time to leave the building and return to it, are allotted as much as an hour.

Water breaks

Even though they are offered voluntarily and not mandated by the state of Florida, many companies have break periods that are approximately halfway between the lunch break and the start and finish times of the day. While they are called a water break, most companies will allow you to take a water break as needed, especially in labor-intensive fields where heat and dehydration can cause serious health and performance issues. High-risk jobs may take multiple breaks, especially during the hottest and coldest months of the year.

Paid breaks

The only laws regarding paid breaks are those worked out between a representing union and an employer, and are not laws so much as by-laws of the employee contract. Union-backed employees may receive such breaks as part of their benefits package, as a single example. Paid breaks are not available for all employees, even those who belong to unions. There are no laws in the Florida statutes regarding breaks that must be given to employees.