When it comes to meal periods and rest breaks, workers in Ohio don't have it as good as workers in some other states. There is no law on the books giving employees the right to lunch periods or even short breaks during their workday – it is up to the Ohio employer's discretion.
If a person works through their meal break or is allowed to take shorter breaks, they must be compensated for both. Ohio state law generally follows the U.S. Department of Labor guidelines regarding meal and rest breaks.
Meal Break Laws in the State of Ohio
Ohio labor laws do not provide guidelines for work or rest breaks, with the exception of those workers aged 17 or younger. Adult employees are not entitled to breaks of any kind – this is left up to the discretion of the employer. If a business offers a worker a lunch or short break, it must follow federal requirements.
The U.S. Department of Labor states that employers may not provide meal breaks in a discriminatory manner – they cannot deny breaks to workers based on age, disability, national origin, sex, race or religion.
If a business offers a 30-minute or more break during which the worker is relieved of their duties, then that business does not have to pay the worker during their meal break. However, if they are required to work through the break, they must receive compensation.
Federal Labor Laws on Unpaid Break Time
Under federal employment law, businesses must pay employees for the time they spend performing “compensable” work. However, a company does not have to pay them for bona fide meal breaks – periods of uninterrupted time where the worker ceases their duties for the sole purpose of eating.
Brief Rest Periods and Ohio Employees
A meal break is longer than a rest break, which is typically between five to 20 minutes. There is no law in Ohio requiring rest breaks, but workers must be paid during this time, as they are still on the clock.
Federal law considers short breaks to be compensable work, included in the total hours worked in a workweek and counted when determining overtime pay. Unauthorized extensions of work breaks do not need to be counted as part of the the total hours worked if:
- The business has expressly and directly communicated to the worker that their authorized break will last only a specific amount of time.
- Any break extension is contrary to the business’ rules.
- Any break extension will be punished.
Break Rules and Protections for Ohio Minors
Ohio requires minors to take a 30-minute lunch break when working at least five hours, which may be paid or unpaid. Minors can also work only a specific amount of time in a single day or week.
For example, during summer breaks and other school breaks, Ohio minors cannot work more than eight hours on a single day and not more than 40 hours of working time in a week. When school is in session, minors cannot work more than three hours a day and not more than 18 hours in a week.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.