FLSA Language on Breaks

We allow our dock staff a 15-minute, un-paid break and a 30-minute unpaid lunch. The manager of the dock staff recently read in a newsletter that "employees must be paid for short breaks (typically, between five and 20 minutes)." I've done some internet searching and I've found several other places where this 5-20 minutes thing is restated. My problem is, I can't seem to find that language in the actual FLSA. Does anyone know where this comes from? Is it written right into the Act, or is it an opinion letter? My boss is very particular about finding these things directly in the law, even if an "expert" expresses them. Any help would be much appreciated!


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  • I'm not sure I can point you to the specific language, but I can assure you, breaks of 20 minutes or less must be compensated. If you go to the DOL website, and search for the text of the FLSA, look under the section that address "Rest Periods" and "Meal Periods". It should be there, If not, get a statement from tan official at the DOL. Tell your boss that to continue to provide unpaid breaks is potentially a very stupid and costly practice.
  • Looks like the Regs (29 C.F.R) section 185.18 and 785.19 reference the "rest" period as being from 5 to 20 minutes - paid working time of course, and the next section referencing the meal break of 30 minutes or more as non-paid when no work is performed. You might check the DOL site to see if this sectin of the FLSA is available online. Hope this helps.
  • Thank you! That was exactly what I needed!
  • Hi - it's pretty typical that people think the FLSA requires breaks for adults - it doesn't. Here is an excerpt from the DOL website (I've included the link as well):


    "- FLSA Hours Worked Advisor

    Meal Periods and Rest Breaks

    The FLSA does not require an employer to provide meal periods or rest breaks for their employees. Many employers, however, do provide breaks and/or meal periods. Breaks of short duration, from 5 to 20 minutes, are common. As a general rule, rest breaks are considered hours worked and bona fide meal periods are not considered hours worked.

    Some states do have laws requiring rest breaks and/or meal periods. Such state requirements will prevail over the silence of the FLSA on this subject. In those situations where an employee is subject to both the FLSA and state labor laws, the employee is entitled to the most beneficial provisions of each law.

    For example, a private sector employee employed in a particular state is entitled, by state law, to a paid 10 minute rest break for each 4 hour work period. The employee working in that state is entitled to the rest break, even though the FLSA does not require rest breaks."

    However, certain states require more than the feds - yours does not. I looked up your state's Labor and Economic website and pulled the following information for you:


    "Employees under 18 years of age may not work more than 5 continuous hours without a 30 minute uninterrupted rest period. There are no requirements for breaks, meal or rest periods for employees over 18 years of age.

    Where an employer has a break, meal or rest period policy, the employee must be completely relieved of work duties and free to pursue his or her own interest to not be considered work time (Cherney v. West Michigan Cleaners 84-3823)."

  • kdspa - how cool is that. Mindy provides a direct state specific quote and a link. You can't get that kind of help just anywhere.

    Mindy, your search engine talents are exceptional.
  • Thanks Marc - I even answer to Mandi x:P
  • Ooooops - I know that, sorry.

    We just hired a lady named Mindi - confusion reigns supreme.
  • Thanks! The further clarification of MI law is a helpful addition to the CFR referrence WOT had already posted. I appreciate your help!
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