Pennsylvania Labor Laws About Taking Lunches & Breaks

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Whether you’re a human resources representative, small business owner or an employee, you should be aware of Pennsylvania lunch break laws. Knowing what the rights of your workers are is important, both for the legal protection of your company and for creating a fair and comfortable workplace. If you’re an employee, you should be familiar with your rights regarding lunch breaks and rest periods, for your own protection.

Are Lunch Breaks Required in Pennsylvania?

According to the state’s Department of Labor, employers are required to provide breaks of at least 30 minutes for those ages 14 through 17 who work five or more consecutive hours. However, companies do not have to give breaks to employees ages 18 or older.

PA meal break laws do not go any further than the above-stated regulation, and it therefore falls to the jurisdiction of federal labor law to govern meal break policy in the state. Pennsylvania adheres to the federal law stating that if your company permits you to take a break, and if it lasts less than 20 minutes, you must be paid for that time. If your employer allows meal periods and they last more than 20 minutes, the company does not have to pay you for that time if you’re not working during it.

What are the PA Work Break Laws?

Though it may be hard to believe, PA work break laws are very limited. Only seasonal farm workers are entitled to a break under Pennsylvania state law. After five hours of working, farm hands are required to be given a 30-minute break. During this time, the employees cannot be asked to perform any work duties whatsoever. This break may be unpaid. Companies may choose to compensate employees during their breaks, but doing so is not required by federal or state law.

Aside from farm workers and those aged 17 or younger, Pennsylvania employees are not entitled to periodic breaks per state law. This includes short rest periods, like the 15-minute breaks many companies provide. The law does stipulate, however, that any breaks provided that are shorter than 20 minutes must be paid.

What About Collective Bargaining?

In some instances, such as if a collective bargaining agreement or union arrangement is in place, a company may be required to provide paid or unpaid meal breaks or rest periods in the state of Pennsylvania. Companies may come to agreements with union representatives in an effort to keep employees content in the workplace. However, you should be aware that they are under no legal obligation to do so, per the laws of the state of Pennsylvania.