While federal law does not require employers to provide lunch or rest breaks to employees, New York state law does require lunch breaks if employees work enough hours. The New York State Labor Law is the authority on lunch and rest breaks, and New York employers must comply with its provisions.
The New York State Labor Law applies to every "person" covered by the labor law. It makes no distinction between part-time employees and full-time employees in its application. It equally applies to blue collar workers, white collar workers and management.
Requirement for Lunch
Employees who work for at least six hours and begin their shifts before 11 a.m. and finish their shifts sometime after 2 p.m. are entitled to an unpaid, uninterrupted lunch break of at least 30 minutes between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Employees whose shifts begin after 1 p.m. and end by 6 a.m. are entitled to a 45-minute lunch break, so long as their shifts are at least six hours. Employees are entitled to an additional 20-minute meal period if their shifts begin before 11 a.m. and end after 7 p.m. New York factory workers are entitled to a lunch break of at least one hour.
Non-Traditional Work Shifts
For employees whose shifts do not coincide with the 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. time frame cited above, the employer must provide a meal period "at a time midway" between their shifts.
Employers can provide shorter meal periods by application and approval from the New York State Commissioner of the Department of Labor. The commissioner investigates if there are such special or unusual circumstances that justify a deviation from the standard law. For example, only one employee may be on duty and may agree to remain on duty while taking his lunch. If the commissioner grants a permit for a shorter period, it must be displayed in a conspicuous location.
New York does not require that employees be given rest or coffee breaks. However, if an employer does provide breaks of a shorter duration, this time must be compensated.