Minnesota Law on Meal Breaks and Paid Rest Breaks at Work

On Behalf of | Apr 18, 2023 | Employment Law

From beach bars to international banks and everything in between, employers the world over have used rest and lunch breaks as ways to cheat their staff members. Young and old, entry-level or decades of experience, employer policies are not always in line with the law. And the variance is almost always in favor of the employer in terms of time off and hours paid.

Is your Minnesota employer giving you long enough breaks? Frequent sufficient breaks? Are they asking you to clock in or out for the correct amount of time when you are on break? Today, we’re here to answer the most essential questions about Minnesota meal break and rest period laws when you are at work.

Should My Breaks at Work be Paid?

Rule: Under 20 Minutes- Yes … Over 20 Minutes- No.

In Minnesota, laws on meal breaks and rest periods are loosely defined, often decided in court based on circumstance and reason. But there are a few hard-line rules when it comes to pay. If a break is 20 minutes or longer and employees are truly relieved of all duties, then clocking out is appropriate. However, breaks shorter than 20 minutes should be on the clock and employees paid for the time.

There is also the requirement that employees be free to see to their own affairs when on break. This does not necessarily include freedom to leave the premises. However, employees must have no duties and be able to make phone calls, visit their cars, buy and eat lunch, or catch a nap as a few examples for break time to be truly off the clock.

Can My Employer Make Me Clock Out for Lunch or Break?

Rule: Clock Out for Breaks 20 Minutes or More

Some employers insist that staff clock out for any time away from work. This is sometimes legal, and sometimes not. As previously stated, breaks shorter than 20 minutes must be on the clock. If you are being asked to clock out for breaks 19 minutes or fewer, this is illegal and paid time is being stolen from you.

If you are on call for your lunch break and might have to go back to work at any moment, you should not be clocked out. If you have additional duties to take care of during ‘lunch’ or rest breaks, you should still be on the clock.

However, if your lunch breaks are 20 minutes or longer and you’re free to spend the time on your own needs, clocking out is appropriate.

Is My Meal Break At Work Long Enough?

Rule: “Sufficient time to eat” 20 – 30 Minutes

Minnesota law dictates that anyone working eight consecutive hours should be given sufficient time to eat a meal. This is not given a specific number of minutes or definition of sufficient. However, it is stated that 30 minutes will always be considered a sufficient amount of time. It is not made clear that the time must be on or off the clock, if it can be on call, or if you can be held on the premises. In reality, some jobs can only give you sufficient time to eat, but not to leave. Camp counselors at a children’s summer camp, for example, will eat lunch while still on duty with the campers.

However, the length of your meal break does matter to the courts, and is judged for reasonability on a case by case basis. Shorter meal breaks may be acceptable if meals are provided so that no time is needed to source meals or get to a place to eat. Longer meal breaks may be considered necessary if there are few or no nearby meal options and/or employees are expected to leave in order to eat.

Remember, you only clock out if you get 20 minutes, so 20-30 is a good rule of thumb for ‘long enough’ for a meal break. Especially if you are expected to clock out.

Should I Be Getting Rest Breaks at Work?

Rule: Every 4 Hours

Rest breaks are a highly variable part of many jobs. No matter what the industry, any Minnesotan who works for four or more consecutive hours has a right to a sufficient rest break. This, again, is not tightly defined. But complaints will be judged on a case-by-case basis to determine if rest breaks are A) provided and B) long enough for staff to rest and recover from their work duties.

Our team here at Villaume & Schiek is dedicated to helping you get fair treatment at your workplace. Contact us today for more information about legal work conditions with your employer and how to find justice if you are being mistreated or underpaid.

Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individualsituation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.