Q. Is it mandatory for a nonexempt employee to take at least a 20-minute meal break after working a certain number of hours? —M.M., Illinois
A. Federal law doesn't require you to offer meal breaks. But if you do provide breaks, know the law: You must compensate employees for breaks if they last less than 20 minutes. If the break extends beyond 20 minutes, you don't need to pay employees for that time. That's why some organizations require employee breaks to be at least 20 minutes in length.(To see the U.S. Labor Department fact sheet on this topic, visit www.dol.gov/dol/topic/workhours/ breaks.htm.)
Note: Check your state law on break times; it may be even stricter than federal law.