In just about all states across the United States, an individual can work for 4-6 hours without taking a break. Many states mandate a 30-minute meal break for an 8-hour shift, however, laws differ by state. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal wage and hour law, does not force businesses to provide meal or rest breaks.

Worker breaks are very essential in today’s workplaces. Worker breaks have quite a number of productivity-related perks. They could motivate staff, which leads to increased productivity, advancement, and mental well-being.

According to the United States Department of Labor, if an employer offers staff members break periods, whatever break under twenty minutes must be compensated, whereas almost everything over thirty minutes should be unpaid as well as categorized as having the worker off the clock.

What You Should Know Regarding Work Breaks in the United States

In the United States, each state makes its own legislation concerning meal or rest breaks. Several people obey federal rules and standards, whereas others have particular rules that companies must follow. Below are some widely accepted breakdowns of how state break regulations work.

  1. State Meal Break Regulations

Employers are not required to offer a meal break in most states. Employees that operate upwards of five or six hours at a time in states that mandate meal breaks should be granted a half-hour break to eat. Several states forbid companies from granting breaks near the start or end of a work shift.

  1. State Rest Period Regulations

Just a few states mandate employers to provide workers with rest breaks during working hours. Almost all these states require workers to take a ten-minute paid rest break every four hours. A selection of state rest break regulations could be found on the Department of Labor’s homepage.

  1. Younger Workers’ Meal and Rest Periods

Most states mandate companies to provide meal and rest breaks to younger employees. In states where adult employees are required to take breaks, the regulations for minors are indeed stringent. Companies in Delaware, for instance, are required to offer a 30-minute meal break to employees who have worked at least seven and a half hours; minors are legally allowed a 30-minute break after working five hours.

Several states have special break regulations for minors (workers under the age of 18), whereas others only have special break regulations for minors 15 and under. Check with your state labor department for details on your state’s break regulations for younger employees.

  1. Salaried Workers’ Meal and Rest Periods

Non-exempt employees are subject to meal as well as rest breaks. Staff members who are compensated hourly or receive below $684 each week ($35,568 per year) fall into this category! Workers who are “exempt” from the Fair Labor Standards Act since they are paid properly as well as earn more than the aforementioned income threshold do not have the right to a meal and rest break under either state or federal law.


Meal and rest breaks are not mandated or considered necessary under federal law. The above breaks are determined by the state wherein the company is located.

Owing to that, it is imperative you contact the local labor department if you’re not authorized to take legally mandated break time, or if you are ordered to operate through your breaks without first being paid. Also, contemplate reaching a knowledgeable employment lawyer who can assist you in obtaining the necessary breaks and possibly recovering any back pay.