Recently, I have been researching lunch and break laws at the state level. I have learned that New Mexico is one of a number of states that have no specific regulations covering this topic.
Even though there aren’t any state laws covering this subject, there are applicable federal rules for New Mexico residents. It may surprise you to learn that Federal law does not mandate any specific lunches or breaks. The regulations do, however, offer some regulations as to whether or not an employee should be paid during these times if an employer chooses to offer breaks during the day.
Short rest breaks, which usually 20 minutes or less, should be counted as hours worked. Genuine “meal periods” are usually 30 minutes or more, and do not need to be compensated as work time. An employee must also be completely relieved of his or her duties during this meal break for it to qualify as unpaid. If the employee is still required to do any duties (even small duties such as answering a phone), it must instead be a paid break.
Federal law also contains other provisions related to employee pay during times of waiting, sleeping and traveling. 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 facilities are provided and at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep may be achieved by the employee.
Another issue I find comes up in the area of work hours 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.
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 from home or elsewhere, 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.
A listing of information on the laws related to lunches, breaks and other pertinent labor issues can be found on the New Mexico Complete Labor Law Poster.