Employees may look forward to taking a meal break as a way of staying fresh and alert for the balance of the workday. Although the opportunity to take a meal break may seem like a basic right, many states do not require employers to provide such breaks. In Connecticut, however, the labor code includes a provision that makes meal breaks mandatory.
Connecticut labor laws require meal breaks for full-time employees. Workers who are on the clock for 7.5 or more consecutive hours must receive a break of at least 30 minutes. To ensure the meal period falls somewhere in the middle of the shift, it may not take place during the first two hours or last two hours of the workday. The Connecticut Department Of Labor notes that provisions of collective bargaining agreements, as negotiated by labor unions, may supersede the state meal break requirement.
Connecticut employers may not have to provide meal breaks if they meet the criteria for an exemption. The labor commissioner may grant an exemption to employers who demonstrate that providing meal breaks would adversely affect public safety, for example. Employers also may receive an exemption if only one employee at a time can perform the duties of a job if no more than four employees are on the shift, or if the business operation requires employees to be on hand at all times to respond to urgent situations. Examples of the last case include jobs involving chemical production or research experiments, according to the Connecticut Department Of Labor.
At the federal level, the Fair Labor Standards Act establishes guidelines regarding compensation during breaks. According to the guidelines, employers do not have to pay workers during full meal periods that last 30 minutes or more. An exception to this rule is if employees have to work during their break, such as by sitting at their desk and returning e-mails while eating. In Connecticut, since meal breaks must be at least 30 minutes, employers do not need to keep paying employees, during break time, as long as the period is work-free.
Connecticut's meal break laws are among the most employee-friendly in the nation. Fewer than half of all states make meal breaks mandatory, and of the others that do, several limit breaks only to certain industries or make them shorter than 30 minutes. Connecticut, however, is not among an even smaller number of states that require paid rest periods, sometimes known as coffee breaks or bathroom breaks. Thus, employees in Connecticut may have to work continuously before and after their meal break at their employer's behest.