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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61 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

Amelia

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

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

Dan

March 25, 2011 at 11:13 am

Are employers required to provide a break room for employees

Amelia

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?

Amelia

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.

Leif

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

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