The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes certain federal employment regulations regarding wages, hours, and employee classification. However, the FLSA does not require employers to give employees rest or meal periods. Rather, state law determines whether employers must provide rest periods, meal periods, or both. While some states provide workers with these advantages, others, such as New Jersey, do not. New Jersey employers are not required to provide employees with rest or meal periods, although they must still comply with federal law should they choose to do so.
If New Jersey employers choose to give employees rest or meal periods, they must follow federal law. Federal law states that short breaks, usually between five and 20 minutes, are common and promote employee efficiency. Such short breaks are considered compensable work time that should be included in the total number of hours worked during the week.
However, these breaks must actually be taken and may not be offset against other working time. They may also not be extended beyond the amount of time prescribed by the employer. Rest periods do not have to be compensated if a New Jersey employer decides not to give them. Therefore, authorized rest periods are considered part of the workday and must be compensated only if a New Jersey employer decides to offer employees such breaks in the first place.
If New Jersey employers choose to give employees meal periods, they may have to pay employees for that time depending whether they are considered bona fide meal periods according to federal law. Federal law defines bona fide meal periods as rest periods, which are usually at least 30 minutes in duration.
Employees are considered working if they are required to perform any duties, active or inactive, while eating. However, employees do not have to leave the premises in order to take a bona fide meal period. For example, if a receptionist is required to eat lunch at their desk, they are still considered to be working and not completely relieved of their duties. Similarly, an employee who eats lunch while driving from one job site to the next is still working and must be paid for that time. Therefore, in order to constitute as a bona fide meal period which does not have to be compensated, an employee may be on the premises but must not be performing any duties while eating.
New Jersey Employees Under 18
There is one exception to New Jersey law that does not require employers to give employees breaks – a mandatory break law that applies to minors under the age of 18. After five consecutive hours of work, employees under the age of 18 must be given a 30-minute meal period. All other employees over the age of 18 are not subject to the mandatory break law, but rather only to company policy.
Cherry Hill Employment Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Represent Employees in Rest and Meal Break Disputes
If your employer has chosen to provide rest breaks and you have not been compensated for them, or if your employer has chosen to provide bona fide meal breaks but you have not been allowed to take them, contact a Cherry Hill employment lawyer at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C..
We can help you understand your rights and options. We provide experienced representation in employment law matters to clients throughout New Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Red Bank, Middletown and Marlton.