What is Employment Law?
Employment law is a broad area of law that governs the relationships between employers and employees. Many employment laws (such as minimum wage laws) were enacted as protective labor legislation. In the United States’ federalist system, it is important that employers are familiar with both federal regulations (such as the Fair Labor Standards Act) and other state-specific rules.
One of the most frequently asked questions is whether employers are required to provide lunch breaks and, in the event a lunch break is provided, whether employees are required to utilize it.
- Federal Law. Considering how commonplace lunch breaks are, it is surprising that federal law does not require employers to provide employees with meal, lunch, or break periods. Employers need only pay employees for the time they spend working in accordance with federal law. However, when employers offer short breaks, federal law considers the breaks as compensable work hours that must be included in the sum of hours worked during the work week and considered in determining if overtime was worked. Actual meal periods, in contrast, are not work time and are not compensable.
- State Law. States currently have about a 50-50 split regarding lunch breaks. About half of the states adopt the federal rule and don’t require lunch breaks. The other half require employers provide lunch breaks.
- Florida Law. Florida has opted to adopt the federal rules and, therefore, does not require that employers provide lunch breaks. Florida Statute §450.081(4) provides an exception to the general rule, requiring that employers provide a meal period of at least 30 minutes to employees under the age of 18 who work for more than 4 hours continuously.
Forced Lunch Breaks.
Federal and state employment laws are enacted to provide a safe work environment and ensure employees have certain rights. So long as employers comply with federal and state employment laws, they may implement workplace policies as they see fit. While employers cannot force an employee to eat, they can enact policies requiring employees to take a break from work during the lunch period.