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Lunch Break at Work: It Depends on Your State (2024 Guide)

In the United States, the laws regarding lunch breaks and working hours vary depending on the state in which you are employed. In most cases, however, a full-time employee working a standard 8-hour work day is entitled to a 30-minute to one-hour lunch break.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

What are the Federal Laws Regarding Lunch Breaks for Employees?

According to the Department of Labor, in the U.S., federal law does not mandate specific lunch or rest break periods for adult workers. However, it does require employers to pay for all hours worked, including any short breaks that are provided [1].

The regulation of meal and rest breaks is typically left to state labor laws, and the specifics vary depending on the state. Certain states have regulations outlining the requirements for meal breaks, while others do not have specific requirements.

Meal and Break Policies

Some key points to consider regarding meal and break policies for employees include:

  • Unpaid Meal Breaks – Certain states may require employers to provide an unpaid meal break of a certain duration (i.e. 30-60 min.) after a specified number of consecutive hours worked. During this meal break, the employee should be relieved of all job duties.
  • Paid Rest Breaks – Some states have regulations regarding paid rest breaks, which are shorter breaks during the workday where employees are allowed to take short breaks (e.g., 10-15 min.) while still on the clock.
  • Voluntary Breaks – In states without specific regulations, some employers may still choose to provide meal or rest breaks voluntarily.

Also Read: How Many Breaks in a 5-Hour Shift?

Rest and Lunch Break Laws by State

What follows is a general overview of rest and lunch break laws for employees in 6 of the largest U.S. states:

  • California – Most employees are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid meal break for shifts over 5 hours and a second 30-minute meal break for shifts over 10 hours. Additionally, short paid rest breaks are required by law.
  • New York – New York only requires a paid rest break for employees working a shift of more than 6 hours.
  • Texas – Texas does not have specific laws requiring meal or rest breaks for adult workers. These policies are left entirely to the employer’s discretion.
  • Florida – Florid also does not have state laws mandating meal or rest breaks for adult workers.
  • Illinois – Illinois does not have specific laws regarding meal breaks, but it does require employers to provide “reasonable meal periods” to employees.
  • Pennsylvania – No specific laws requiring meal or rest breaks for adult employees.

Need More Information?

The above information is merely intended to provide a general summary, and the actual regulations of your state may vary. If you are an employee who is concerned about specific lunch and break policies, you should check the specific labor laws of your state for the most accurate and up-to-date information. You can also refer to your state’s labor department website or consult legal resources for comprehensive details.

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