Federal Labor Laws Regarding Hours Worked With Breaks

By Jessica Powers
The Department of Labor ensures the basic rights of workers.
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The Department of Labor's Wages and Hours Division enforces national laws regarding workers' rights. The main set of laws regarding labor is the Federal Labor Standards Act. The FLSA contains regulations about minimum wage, overtime, child labor and family leave. One section is also devoted explicitly to hours worked and rest periods.

Federal Laws

There are no specific laws regarding a mandatory break or rest period for employees over age 16. The Wage and Hour Division, however, refers to the effectiveness of short breaks as well as meal breaks in the materials available to employers. It suggests that short breaks of less than 20 minutes are common and "promote the efficiency of the employee." When breaks are offered, the law states that short breaks (five to 20 minutes) are considered "worked hours" and must be paid.

State vs. Federal Regulations

Nine states--California, Colorado, Illinois , Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington--have specific laws regarding rest periods and meal breaks. In states with labor standards additional to those outlined in the Fair Labor Standards Act, the employee is always entitled to the higher standard. Therefore, in the case of breaks, employers would be required to offer rest periods as outlined by state laws.

Collective Bargaining

Workplaces protected by a collective bargaining agreement or union contract have different policies. Occasionally, these contracts outline specific policies regarding breaks. The federal law protects the rights of employees to be covered under these contracts, therefore protecting their rights to the mandatory breaks listed in them.

About the Author

Jessica Powers has been writing online professionally since 2009. Her articles have focused on travel, law and general knowledge. Currently, she is working on a creative project about the art of beer tourism. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Minnesota.