Meal breaks and rest periods are among the most misunderstood and abused of all the employee rights. In part, because many employers feel that their requirement to supply these breaks is up for interpretation. While the timing and length of these breaks can vary, Minnesota employees have an absolute right to meal breaks and rest breaks based on the number of hours they are expected to work in a shift. Any employer who is not supplying these breaks correctly is not only doing their employers a disservice, they are breaking the law.
There are three mandated rules regarding employee meals and breaks are covered in Minnesota Statutes 177.253 and 177.254 and Federal Statute 29 CFR 785.18.
- Meal Breaks for Every 8 Hour Shift
- Rest Breaks Within Each 4 Hours of Work
- Breaks Shorter Than 20 Minutes are Paid
These rules are simple and easy to follow, and we’ll go into detail on their application in the following sections.
4 Hours of Consecutive Work: Adequate Rest Period
According to statute 177.253, all Minnesota workers have a right to adequate time to rest for every four hours of consecutive work they do. This means that every four hours you’re on the job, you must be given a rest period at some point within the four hours. Minnesota does leave timing up to the discretion of the employer (and employee) meaning this break can be at the beginning or end of the work period, but a break is required.
Adequate time is also specifically defined as time enough to find and use the nearest convenient restroom. Employers cannot claim they have give you a rest break if a restroom is not available or if you are somehow prevented or not permitted to use the restroom during your break period.
8 Hours of Consecutive Work: Adequate Time to Eat a Meal
For every eight hour shift that you work consecutively, Minnesota employers are required to provide adequate time to eat a meal according to Statute 177.254. This statute defines that any eight-hour period where an employee is clocked in from the beginning to end of the shift, they must have enough time to sit and eat. Employers are disallowed by law from preventing their employees from eating. However, each employer is allowed to define whether employees can take a longer meal break to buy lunch or must bring their lunch to eat it in an adequate break period on premises. The only hard-defined requirement is that employees are allowed to have and eat a meal during this time.
Paid Breaks: 20 Minutes or Shorter
Finally, your employer is allowed to define how long rest breaks and meal breaks will be as long as there is ample time to use the nearest restroom and/or eat your meal. However, federal law does define whether you are paid for this time based on the length of each break.
Breaks that are 20 minutes or shorter are required to be paid breaks and it is illegal for your employer to ask you to clock out during these times. This means that the traditional 15-minute break for 4-hour work periods must be paid, while the traditional 30-minute break for meals can be paid, but does not need to be. This law is in place so that employers cannot nickel-and-dime employees while providing breaks too short to be used for personal tasks.
Contact Villaume & Schiek, P.A. in Bloomington, Minnesota
If you are not getting your rightful rest breaks and meal breaks, or if you are not being paid correctly for these breaks, a Minnesota employment lawyer can help you achieve the rightful treatment you deserve. Contact us today to find out more about how to defend your Minnesota employment rights and hold your employer accountable for their mismanagement of employee time or pay.
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