I find that employers and employees alike are often very interested in knowing what meal and rest breaks are required under the law. Oregon is one of 19 states that has specific laws related to this area.
In the state of Oregon, all employees 18 and over must receive a meal break of 30 minutes if they have worked six hours or more. This must be an uninterrupted time period during which the worker is relieved of all of his or her duties, and it may be an unpaid break. The law also states that if the shift is between six and seven hours in length, the meal break must be between the second and fifth hour worked. If the shift is over seven hours long, the meal break should fall between the third and sixth hour worked.
The rule is somewhat different for workers under the age of 18. Minor employees must also be given a 30 minute break after working for at least six hours. However, no matter what the length of the shift, the minor’s break must begin no later than five hours and one minute after the start of his or her shift.
Not all employees are covered by the Oregon meal break law. White collar, salaried employees are typically not required to be given meal breaks. These are usually supervisors, administrative and professional employees. Nurses and others who are under a collective bargaining agreement are also specifically exempted from the rule, as long as their collective bargaining agreement gives specific conditions on meals and breaks.
Employers are also exempted from giving their employees this off-duty meal break if certain extenuating circumstances exist. For example, if the safety of employees, patients or clients is at risk, there is no one to relieve a worker from duty or it is uneconomical to shut down equipment a worker is using, the employee should be permitted to eat a meal while on-duty. In general, the law requires that employers structure the work situation to be able to give employees the mandated meal breaks as much as possible.
Finally, Oregon is also one of a handful of states that mandates paid rest breaks for many workers. Employers must provide employees over age 18 with a paid 10 minute rest break for each four hours (or “major portion thereof,” usually meaning two hours) they have worked. As much as practical, the rest break should be in the middle of each four hour work segment. Employees under 18 must be given a 15 minute rest break for each four hours or major portion thereof.
The same types of workers that are exempt from the meal break law are also exempt from the rest break law. There are also exceptions for extenuating circumstances, similar to those I described above. It is also interesting to note that under the law, workers in Oregon may not choose to waive their right to their rest break. Employers will still be in violation of the law even if an employee works through his or her break by choice.
A listing of all state and federal laws pertaining to lunches and breaks may be found on the Oregon Complete Labor Law Poster. This poster also includes helpful information on many other federal and state labor laws.