Lunches and Breaks are a subject of much interest by employers and employees alike. In reviewing state laws related to this area, I have found that Colorado has several pertinent state regulations.
If an employee works five or more consecutive hours, he or she is entitled under Colorado law to a 30 minute meal break. In order for this to qualify as an unpaid break, the worker must be completely relieved of his or her duties, and must be free to engage in personal activities during this time.
The Colorado lunch and break law recognizes that in some situations, it may not be feasible for an employee to be completely relieved of his or her duties. If an uninterrupted meal break is not a practical possibility, an employee must be allowed to consume an “on-duty” meal, during which he or she must be paid.
Colorado is also one of a handful of states that provides in the state code for specified rest periods. Employers in Colorado must provide workers a ten minute rest break for each four hours or “major fraction thereof” worked. The law states that these are to be paid breaks, and the employer is allowed to mandate that workers stay on the premises during the break.
While the lunch and break rules apply to most service professions such as retail stores, the food and beverage industry and housekeeping jobs, other professional jobs such as teachers, nurses, managers and administrative workers are exempted.
Finally, I think it may be of interest to note Colorado’s rules regarding times when employees are asked to wait. Under Colorado law, if an employee is waiting between job duties during the normal course of a work day, or is “on-call” but has great restrictions placed on their freedom to move about and engage in personal pursuits, this waiting time must be considered work time. On the other hand, if an employee is able to continue with personal pursuits away from the workplace and has ample time to respond to calls, this type of waiting may not be considered paid work hours.
A complete summary of Colorado’s lunch and break laws may be found on the Complete Colorado Labor Law Poster. This poster also contains detailed information on many other aspects of both federal and state labor laws.