General Labor Laws on Breaks and Lunches
The United States Department of Labor administers labor law rules and regulations that each state must follow. The labor department promotes safe working conditions for U.S. employees and helps employers by providing a standard set of guidelines they must follow through the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Additionally, states may supplement these federal regulations with its own set of labor regulations, providing employees with additional work benefits and privileges. At a minimum, each state must require its employers to provide any FLSA benefits to its employees.
Arizona does not supplement the FLSA guidelines which do not require employers to provide its employees with mandatory breaks or lunch breaks. As of 2009, only 19 states required its employers to provide workers with mandatory workday meal breaks. Generally, these jurisdictions require a 30-minute lunch period per work day if the workday exceeds eight hours.
In comparison, mandatory lunch breaks are not as commonly required by state law. Only a handful of states provide intermittent workday breaks, usually not in excess of 10-minutes. As of 2009, only eight states required employers to allow its employees to exercise a 10-minute break for every four hours worked.
Arizona State Law
Arizona does not require its employers to provide its employees with a mandatory break, but employers may voluntarily provide its employees with break periods and lunch periods. When employers allow its employees to exercise break benefits, the FLSA requires these breaks to be compensated, as allowed by federal law.
Specific lunch or meal periods, on the other hand, do not count toward overtime compensation. The FLSA provides a distinction between rest periods of up to 20-minutes and lunch breaks, typically exceeding 30-minutes. The rest periods must be compensated and counted toward the total number of hours worked, but the lunch periods do not have to be paid.
Arizona Company Policies
Some Arizona employers provide employees with breaks if they work more than a six-hour workday. These employer may outline these break procedures in company handbooks. However, Arizona employers who have extended the break benefit, seem to allow only "exempt" employees the respite-break period. Under federal law, employers may need to provide a concrete definition of "exempt" versus "non-exempt" employees to ensure there is no violation of the FLSA.
- lunch wagon construction image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com