Q. We are changing our break policy. What breaks are required and can I require employees to take an unpaid meal break?
A. Federal law doesn’t require specific breaks. However, Minnesota law requires employers in the state to “allow each employee adequate time from work within each four consecutive hours of work to utilize the nearest convenient restroom.” They “must permit each employee who is working for eight or more consecutive hours sufficient time to eat a meal.”
Minnesota does not specifically require these breaks to be paid. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act generally requires breaks to be paid unless the break is:
- At least 30 minutes long
- The employee does not do any work during the break and
- The employee is free to leave his or her workstation during the break.
Nothing prevents employers from requiring employees to take unpaid meal breaks. However, uniformly enforcing the rule could be difficult and it could create a risk if employees do not meet all three requirements for an unpaid break.
While you can require employees to regularly take an unpaid meal break if the requirements are met, you must also take care to pay employees for lunch periods if the employee performs work.
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