Recently, I’ve been researching state lunch and break laws. Minnesota is one of 19 states with specific state regulations regarding employee meals and breaks.
Minnesota state law stipulates that “sufficient time” to eat a meal must be provided to all employees who work for eight hours or more consecutively. This meal break may generally be unpaid if it is at least 30 minutes long, but only if the employee is completely relieved of his or her duties. If the worker must do any job duties during the meal break, it would not qualify as an unpaid meal break.
I also found it interesting that Minnesota law mandates paid rest breaks for all employees. Within each consecutive four hours of work, an employee must be given sufficient time to use the rest room.
Finally, there are some interesting work hour issues found in federal law related to sleep time, waiting time, and travel time that Minnesotans may be interested in. Whether or not waiting time needs to be considered paid work hours depends on the situation. If an employee is allowed to do something of his or her choosing while waiting for another task to be finished or while waiting at the workplace for his or her services to be called upon, it is generally considered work time. On the other hand, if an employee is waiting to be called upon, but has great freedom to do what he or she wishes while on call (and has plenty of time to respond to the call), it is not generally considered paid work time.
When it comes to sleeping time, an employee required to be on duty less than 24 hours is considered to be “working” even if he or she is permitted to sleep during some of those hours when not busy. If an employee is on duty more than 24 hours, a sleeping period of no more than eight hours may be deducted from work hours. However, this can only be done if sleeping quarters are provided and at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep may be achieved by the employee.
Then there is the issue of travel time. The general rule of thumb is that time spent in the normal day’s commute to and from work is not considered paid working time. However, if an employee is traveling in the course of a days work, it must be considered paid work time.
A thorough presentation of state and federal laws related to lunches and breaks may be found on the Minnesota Complete Labor Law Poster. This poster also presents required notices for all areas of both state and federal labor laws.