Lunch and Break Law Regulations in Colorado (CO)

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 Colorado has several pertinent state regulations.

If an employee works five or more consecutive hours, he or she is entitled under Colorado 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 Colorado lunch and break law recognizes that in some situations, it may not be feasible for an employee to be completely relieved of his or her duties. If an uninterrupted meal break is not a practical possibility, an employee must be allowed to consume an “on-duty” meal, during which he or she must be paid.

Colorado is also one of a handful of states that provides in the state code for specified rest periods. Employers in Colorado must provide workers a ten minute rest break for each four hours or “major fraction thereof” worked. The law states that these are to be paid breaks, and the employer is allowed to mandate that workers stay on the premises during the break.

While the lunch and break rules apply to most service professions such as retail stores, the food and beverage industry and housekeeping jobs, other professional jobs such as teachers, nurses, managers and administrative workers are exempted.

Finally, I think it may be of interest to note Colorado’s rules regarding times when employees are asked to wait. Under Colorado law, if an employee is waiting between job duties during the normal course of a work day, or is “on-call” but has great restrictions placed on their freedom to move about and engage in personal pursuits, this waiting time must be considered work time. On the other hand, if an employee is able to continue with personal pursuits away from the workplace and has ample time to respond to calls, this type of waiting may not be considered paid work hours.

A complete summary of Colorado’s lunch and break laws may be found on the Complete Colorado Labor Law Poster. This poster also contains detailed information on many other aspects of both federal and state labor laws.

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77 Thoughts on “Lunch and Break Law Regulations in Colorado (CO)”

kerry burrier

March 22, 2011 at 9:53 pm

I work as a city bus driver for the city of Greeley, Colorado. Us drivers were informed in Feburary that we would no longer be paid for our rest breaks and lunches even though we can not take them with the routes we have to drive. We as drivers work 6 to 9 hour shifts without any rest periods. GET, the name of the city of Greeley’s Public Transportation System have stated that they have found exemptions to Colorado’s Regulation on break and lunch laws. Can you clarify if there is such an exemption? Myself and the other drivers were hired, being told we would get the pay they recently took away.I personnaly feel they are discriminating against us drivers as other City workers get their breaks and lunch periods

kerry burrier

March 22, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Another note, I have been told by other fellow drivers that I could be termated as being a trouble maker for bring up the fact of all of us loosing our break abd lunch pay


March 23, 2011 at 6:20 am

Hi kerry! Unfortunately, your employer is right. The Colorado break law only covers workers in 4 industries: retail, food & beverage, retail support, and health & medical. Those are the employees covered under the Colorado Minimum Wage Order Number 27. The break law applies only to employees covered by Minimum Wage Order 27. There is no state or federal law that requires a Colorado employer to give breaks to workers in other occupations. You can certainly contact the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment, but our guess is that they will confirm that you are not entitled to meal or rest breaks under state law.

It is not discrimination for an employer to have different policies for employees in different jobs. It is also legal for an employer to have one break policy when workers are hired, and change that break policy. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia


March 23, 2011 at 6:24 am

Hi kerry! Usually an employer cannot fire a worker for lodging a complaint in good faith, such as a complaint about wages or the employer not following state or federal law. However, the employee can still be fired for being rude, argumentitive or insubordinate. You could raise this issue once, respectfully, with the employer. But if you argue with them or are rude, they can terminate you for that behavior. An employer cannot retaliate against an employee for filing a complaint with the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment, as long as the complaint is in good faith. Even if it turns out the employer has done nothing wrong, the employee cannot be punished. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia


March 25, 2011 at 11:13 am

Are employers required to provide a break room for employees


March 25, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Hi Dan! No, a Colorado employer is not required to provide a break area for employees. Some states like California do require break rooms, but Colorado does not. However, the Colorado employee must be allowed to pursue “other activities” (non-work activities) during his or her meal break, like reading a book or listening to music. If the employee is required to take the break at the work station and other activities are forbidden, then the employee is entitled to payment for the meal break. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

August 30, 2014 at 9:20 am

We are a carpet cleaning service company. Our crews go to multiple locations during the course of a days work. Our employees are not paid hourly but a percentage of what is billed to the customer. Our question is what catagory do we fall under with respect to Colorado’s break laws, and since it is often not practical to have a “duty free” 30 min meal time, are we required to pay on a hourly basis for a paid “duty free” meal time?


September 2, 2014 at 3:07 pm

If your workers are genuinely employees (and not independent contractors) they are entitled to both meal and rest breaks under Colorado law. Only employees in a few professions like nurses and teachers are exempt from this law. You may want to consult an attorney since paying by the job (rather than an hourly rate) is unusual. However, it may be lawful as long as your employees always earn more than the minimum wage for all time worked, including travel between jobs.

We are not entirely clear on why it would not be practical for your employees to have breaks. Surely they could take a break after finishing one job, before traveling to the next? Or even stop work to take a break during the middle of the job? (Note that under federal law, driving between jobs is work, not a break.) If your employees are not permitted to take an off-duty meal break, they must be paid for that time. However, they are still entitled to a paid 10-minute rest break every four hours.


October 14, 2014 at 5:21 am

Hello Amelia, I’m not getting the connection between 2 of your replies. If the Colorado Minimum Wage Order Number 27 only covers retail, food and beverage, retail support, and health and medical; then why would it affect a general labor job such as carpet cleaning? My next question regards 12 hour shifts in a continuous production factory setting. I’ve just interviewed for a position, and was told I would not be guaranteed breaks or a lunch. I read somewhere else that an employee is entitled to a 10 minute paid break for every 4 to 5 hours in a 12 hour shift. The staffing agency said that because I’d get paid for all 12 hours of a 12 hour shift (7AM to 7PM for ex.), I was not entitled nor guaranteed any breaks or lunches. Is that legal?

October 17, 2014 at 9:13 am

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Cathy wells

October 20, 2014 at 10:45 pm

Please ck McDonald’s on Eaton Co where emoyees are required to punch out for their ten min break while working seven hr shifts. Also 30min lu nches are not always allowed.
Thank you


October 29, 2014 at 5:56 pm

I am working in fast food store. Should I get paid for 30 minutes lunch time and 10 minutes breaks for my 9 hours work shift.


December 16, 2014 at 9:01 pm

But, what if your employer requires you to take 2 lunch hours during an 8 hour shift. My normal hours are 5:45 am until 4:30 PM and I am being told I need to take one lunch break from 9:30-10:30 and a second break from 12:45 until 2:30.


December 17, 2014 at 3:28 am

I basically have the same question as Robin. Well first, can I be forced to take a meal break? In other words, if I have a 5hr 15min shift and it is not practical to take a lunch in the middle, am I allowed to refuse the meal break? My other question is that I’ve been told if I work more than ten hours in a day, I must take two thirty minute unpaid breaks. Is this true?


December 27, 2014 at 4:22 am

Hey, I work for a retail/consignment store, does anyone know if I’m required to take a lunch break? I guess that applies anywhere but do i have to?


December 27, 2014 at 4:35 am

Im in arvada, co. My schedule says EX: 11am-7pm I usually work 8 hour days, 5 days a week. 2 of these days my manager will cut 10-20 minutes off my time, so instead of 7, id clock out at 6:40 or :50. can a manager make that call? If my schedule says a certain time, shouldnt i be able to work the full amount. my earlier question was to see if i could skip a couple of my lunches to even myself out for the time lost?

The Porter

January 17, 2015 at 6:48 pm

I work for a major car dealership. During the week we work from 7 to 6 with an hour lunch, but no breaks besides lunch. And on Saturdays we work from 7 to 4 with out any breaks allowed. Not even to step outside and smoke a cigarette. Is that legal?

Margie White

January 26, 2015 at 4:19 pm

I use to do payroll where I worked before and the rule was that after 6 hours of work you had to take a lunch. Where I work now they said the Colorado State Law is any time after 5 hours you need to take a lunch. Would you please clarify this for me. Is it 5 hours or 6 hours?
Thank You
Margie ehite


January 28, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Hi Margie,

CO law actually entitles an employee to a meal break after 5 consecutive hours of work. So your prior employer was mistaken. However, it doesn’t really matter. The law is the minimum that every employer MUST give. Each employer has the right to set their own workplace policies. Your current employer could require employees to take a meal break after working 3 hours, and employees would be obligated to comply.

Hope this helps,


January 31, 2015 at 3:46 pm

I work 10 hr shifts every Saturday and I’m only given a 30 min break? I feel I should get more of a lunch break or a few breaks in between the shift. Please let me know if there is something wrong with this.


March 6, 2015 at 1:27 pm

My son started work in a restaurant recently. Their policy is that employees must clock out for their meal break, but there is no time limit for the break listed in the manual. My son said there are no paid breaks and the employee manual only makes reference to this clocked out lunch break. He’s allowed a free kid’s meal on this break. Does he have to clock out to eat? Or should he be able to take a paid break? He does work 4-6 hour shifts.


March 12, 2015 at 10:26 pm

I am a teacher and have students from 8:00 – 9:50. We have a planning period/break from 9:50 – 10:45. On the days that I have lunch duty, I have students from 10:45 to 3:25 with only 5 minutes from 11:20 – 11:25 to get my students to the other side of the building and get back to duty by 11:25. That means I do not have time to heat a lunch in the microwave or go to the bathroom if I am to be at duty on time. I usually just take a bite here and there while I am teaching and working with students, but that means that I rarely get to eat my entire lunch. I teach second grade and there is never a time when students are working independently and I can sit down to eat. I do not have any opportunity to go to the bathroom from 10:45 until 3:25 on duty days. Is this legal?

Dominique Wright

April 21, 2015 at 2:42 pm

I work as a dog bather/dryer. My employer lets us have one five minute break, and then for lunch, if we take twenty minutes or less, it doesn’t come out of our paycheck. She also will occasionally say I can get off work early if I skip lunch, but keeps me there for more than five hours. Are any of these practices legal?


April 22, 2015 at 5:41 pm

One thing that is not clarified under the law, and I’m curious about. If you’re scheduled for eight hours (say 2-10), that included a meal break. In all technicalities, that’s seven and a half hours – are employers required to give you two paid breaks in this instance, or can they get away with only one?

Lee Colwell

May 6, 2015 at 8:26 am

I am a service technician for a large company. I have sites all over Colorado and I am driving a lot. I dont want to have to take a lunch. My employer is telling me that it is a state law that I must take a half an hour lunch. If this is a company policy that is one thing but I want to find out if this is a state law. Thanks


June 2, 2015 at 2:46 pm

My son(18 years old) is currently at work for a major sports store in Colorado. He is working 9 hours and was just told he would not be able to have a break. They apparently they only have 2 cashiers working in this large sporting goods store and a butt load of managers are sitting around in a back room. He was told that only 1 cashier is scheduled for a break today. He is not even allow to leave to use the restroom. I know it’s his job and his battle to fight, but this is so illegal!!!!!! I don’t know how to help him. And I would hate for him to quit since this is only his 2nd job ever and he’s only been there for a few weeks. But if this is how things are managed, it makes me angry that this huge business gets away with this. Any suggestions?


July 1, 2015 at 5:29 pm

I work for a medical facility in Colorado. Our break room is being taken away to be used as something else. We are being told that we have access to a break room in another building. Is this legal? Is there a law that states that employees can’t eat at their workstation? Any help is appreaciated.

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