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What should I know about meal and rest breaks?

On Behalf of | Sep 19, 2022 | Employee Rights

It may surprise you to learn that different states have different parameters when it comes to securing employee meal and rest breaks. Essentially, the federal law on the subject defers to states, for the most part.

Indiana is one such state that does have break laws on the books, but only for minors. In Indiana, minors must take at least 1-2 breaks totaling 30 minutes for every 6-hour shift that they work.

Federal law specifics

Overall, federal law does not require employers to offer employees lunch or coffee/rest breaks. However, if an employer does offer employees shorter breaks (between 5 and 20 minutes), federal law stipulates that this time is part of compensable work hours. That is, an employer is not allowed to count a 10-minute break as unpaid time. Employers may not force employees to work longer in order to “make up” for breaks, or dock pay as a result of taking allowed breaks.

If an employee purposefully extends a break, however, it is possible that the employer may punish the employee for unauthorized breaks. However, the employer needs to “expressly and unambiguously” communicate this to the employee.

Meal period specifics

Federal law also does not heavily police lunch breaks, and Indiana does not have state law addressing the subject. According to federal law, if an employer offers a meal break (typically at least 30 minutes long), this is not work time and employers do not need to compensate for it.

Being aware of the meal and rest break laws in Indiana is important. Understanding your rights under state and federal law can help you avoid unpleasant work situations and unnecessary confrontations with management.


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