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 Massachusetts has several pertinent state regulations.
If an employee works six or more consecutive hours, he or she is entitled under Massachusetts 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 state law provides for a penalty of at least $300, but no more than $600 per violation if this law is not carried out.
The Massachusetts lunch and break law does not apply in certain types of employment situations. These include “iron works, glass works, paper mills, letter press establishments, print works, bleach works, and dyeing works.” Because of the nature of these types of industrial work environments, they are exempt under state law. Other types of industrial facilities may be added to this list with permission of the state Attorney General.
Workplaces with a collective bargaining agreement regarding breaks are also exempt from this meal break law. Finally, if an employee voluntarily gives up his or her lunch break, he or she is permitted to work through it under state law.
Massachusetts law does not specifically provide for any other breaks during the workday other than this 30 minute unpaid meal period. However, if employers do wish to give short breaks to workers during the day, Federal law states that these must be paid breaks if they are 20 minutes or less in length.
A complete summary of Massachusetts’ lunch and break laws may be found on the Complete Massachusetts Labor Law Poster. This poster also contains detailed information on many other aspects of both federal and state labor laws.