Rest Periods, Meal Breaks, Days Off From Work,

and Maximum Hours

Copyright © 1996-2011. Ethan A. Winning. All Rights Reserved.


Over the past 12 years, with more than one million people viewing this paper, the second most "popular" subject on this web site has been rest periods and meal breaks. We will leave this intact for the benefit of employees and employers who continue to visit this site. However, up-to-date changes in codes and rules regarding maximum hours of work in a work week can only be found in the member's section.

This will be a shorter paper than you might expect: only seven states have statutes regarding breaks, and astonishingly there is no federal law on either break or meal periods. I know, I know: one would think that rest periods would be covered by some law since (at least to me) there is a safety issue as well as just some common sense management practice that would say that employees need breaks in the day.

To be fair (sort of) there are 17 states which do have meal period laws, but these average 25 minutes...barely enough to eat... (See below.)

Okay, here is a list of the eight states with laws pertaining to rest breaks:


California: Employees must get a 10-minute break for every four hours worked provided that the work day is at least five hours long.

Colorado: 10 minutes for every four hours worked.

Kentucky: 10 minutes for every four hours worked.

(Maine: 30 minutes after six hours of work which may also be used as a meal period. See below.)

Minnesota: "Reasonable" amount of time in a four-hour period "to use the restroom."

Nevada: 10 minutes for every four hours worked.

Oregon: 10 minutes for every four hours worked.

Washington: 10 minutes for every four hours worked.

That's it. Maine doesn't really count, so there are still seven states instead of eight.

Note that there may be special laws pertaining to specific industries in all states, e.g., mining in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, or factory work in New York and Massachusetts. And there certainly are child labor laws encompassing breaks and meal periods, i.e., minors working in the motion picture industry in California. However, I was not able to find any statutes or work orders.

Payment for Break and Meal Periods: Under 29 CFR 785.18 (Code of Federal Regulations) breaks of five to twenty minutes must be paid by the employer while, for a meal period to be unpaid, has to be at least 30 minutes uninterrupted by work. Note again, however, that federal law does not mandate breaks or meal periods.


CA = 30 minutes if workday is 6 hours or more (See California Employer's Bulletin for changes)

CO = 30 minutes. If workday is at least 5 hours. (Until 2004, it was 6 hours.)

CT = 30 minutes after 7 and 1/2 hour workday.

DE = 30 minutes after 7 and 1/2 hour workday.

HI = 45 minutes, but only for (state?) government employees.

IL = 20 minutes after 5 hours for an employee working a 7½ hour workday.

KY = "Reasonable" amount of time for meal breaks.

ME = 30 minutes after 6 hours of work.

MA = 30 minutes after 6 hours of work.

MN = "Sufficient time" in an 8-hour work period.

NE = 30 minutes between noon and 1 P.M. in workshops, on assembly lines, or "mechanical establishments."

NV = 30 minutes for every 8 hours of work.

NH = 30 minutes for every 5 hours of work.

NM = 30 minutes.

NY = 30 minutes if shift is 6 hours or more; an additional 20 minutes if shift starts before 11 AM and goes beyond 7 PM, mercantile; 60 minutes, factory.

ND = 30 minutes for work period over 5 hours.

OR = 30 minutes for work period of 6 to 8 hours.

TN = 30 minutes for every 6-hour work period.

WA = 30 minutes for every 5-hour work period.

WV = 20 minutes.

WI = 30 minutes for workdays of 6 hours.

WY = 60 minutes for employees who must work on their feet.

States in which employees must receive one day off from work out of every seven (essentially, one day a week):

  • California
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island

Maximum Hours and Employee Can Be Made to Work - See Subscribers Section and Labor Pains

Changes to rest and meal break codes including repealed laws for 2000-2011 can be found only in the subscriber's section only. Click here to subscribe for complete access.

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