Recently, I’ve been researching a variety of laws related to lunches, breaks and other work hour issues. I have learned that Utah does not have any laws on the books specifically related to this area, except those applicable to minors. Utah law requires that employees under 18 years of age must be given an uninterrupted, unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes if they have worked five hours or more continuously. A paid rest break of ten minutes must also be given for each four hours a minor has worked. A minor cannot work more than three hours without being given this ten minute break.
Although Utah does not have a lunch and break law for those persons 18 and over, there are several federal rules you should be aware of if you live in Utah. Federal Law does not require specific breaks or meal periods, but it does give guidance as to whether or not these should be paid breaks if an employer offers them.
Short rest breaks are most often 20 minutes or less, and should be counted as hours worked. Actual “meal periods” are usually 30 minutes or more, and do not need to be compensated as work time. For this to be the case, however, the worker must be fully relieved of his or her duties during the meal break. If the employee is still required to do some of his or her duties, it must be a paid meal period.
You might also be interested in the federal laws related to waiting, sleeping and traveling. 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 a personal nature 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 paid working 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, the law states that 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. The situation is different for an employee on duty more than 24 hours. For these employees, a sleeping period of no more than eight hours may be deducted from their work hours. However, this can only be done if a place to sleep is provided and at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep may be achieved by the employees.
A final issue many readers may be interested in is travel time. Under almost all circumstances, the 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 his or her work, it must be paid as work time.
Further information on laws related to lunches, breaks and other pertinent labor issues can be found on the Utah Complete Labor Law Poster.