Q. I don’t think our state has any rules on meal or break times for hourly workers. Does federal law require us to give breaks? — J.J., Florida
A. You’re correct that Florida has not adopted rules requiring employers to provide meal or break time for hourly workers. And while the federal Fair Labor Standards Act () does not specifically regulate the timing of breaks and meal periods, it does require that “reasonable” breaks (of up to 20 minutes) be considered time worked, for which the employee must be paid.
If you choose to provide a longer break such as for a meal, make sure the employee is truly relieved from the obligation to perform work during that time period. Legal disputes over whether employees properly should have been paid for such time have mushroomed in recent years.
Note: A piece of the health reform law, the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law, requires employers of 50 or more to give workers reasonable break time to express breast milk (and a place to do so) for one year after a child’s birth.