Q. What's the deal on paying workers for rest breaks? —J.S., California
A. Under federal wage-and-hour law, short rest periods that you provide—those lasting up to 20 minutes—must be counted as compensable hours worked. However, if rest breaks are longer than 20 minutes and employees are free to go where they please and use the time for their purposes, such periods aren't considered hours worked. (For details, visit www.dol.gov/dol/topic/workhours/breaks.htm.)
Key point: Federal law doesn't require you to offer rest breaks. But rest breaks for workers are required in at least seven states (California, Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon and Washington). In California, you need to offer a paid 10-minute rest period for every four hours worked. Several other states require mandatory rest breaks for minors.