Employer Lunch and Break Law Requirements in Connecticut

In researching current lunch and break laws in various states, I learned that Connecticut is one of 19 states that has a specific regulation in this area. If a Connecticut employee has worked at least seven and a half hours consecutively in a given day, he or she must be given a 30 minute unpaid break. The state law also states that this break should be at least two hours after the employee arrives at work, and at least two hours before the end of the work day. This meal break must allow the worker to be completely relieved of his or her duties.

I found it interesting that there are several exceptions to this general rule. The law does not apply to teachers or other professional employees that work directly with children in a school district setting. It also doesn’t apply in workplaces where a collective bargaining agreement sets out other arrangements. Exemptions may be granted in situations where public safety would be affected, where only one employee can do the job, where the nature of the business requires that employees be ready to respond at all times, or where five or fewer employees are on a shift at one time at a place of business. If an exemption is granted, employees may be given a paid, on-duty meal time.

Connecticut law does not specifically provide for any other breaks during the workday other than this 30 minute unpaid meal period. However, if employers do wish to give short breaks to workers during the day, Federal law states that these must be paid breaks if they are 20 minutes or less in length.

A complete presentation of federal and state laws related to lunches and breaks, as well as all other labor issues, can be found on the Connecticut Complete Labor Law Poster.

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8 Thoughts on “Employer Lunch and Break Law Requirements in Connecticut”

Bob Gilmore

January 16, 2009 at 8:32 pm

What are the exemptions that this law allows for and how is it determined which types of employers can use it? I am a retail salesperson who works on full commission. Our employers currently have a policy that allows employees to leave the store for lunches during the week but not on Saturdays. They also require that we be available for customer needs the entire time and are expected to interrupt our lunch break for this purpose.
Are they legitimately within their rights to do this under an exemption?

Thanks in advance for any help you might give.

Amelia

January 18, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Hi Bob! There are a number of exceptions to the Connecticut break law. Most of these exceptions would not apply to employees in other states.

Federal law dictates when employees must be paid for meal breaks. Any employer can require that an employee remain on the premises during his or her lunch break. If the break is uninterrupted and the employee is relieved of all work duties, then the employee need not be paid for the break, under federal law. However, these laws probably don’t apply to you, as a commissioned salesperson.

Generally an employee who is still working or on call must be paid for his or her meal break, again, under federal law. A receptionist who must eat at her desk in case a customer walks in or phones must be paid for her meal break. However, there is a question whether this really applies in your case, again because you are a commissioned salesperson. As long as you are earning at least the minimum wage for all hour worked, including the interrupted meal breaks, you are being paid for this time.

Often commissioned salespeople agree to lunch arrangements like this, because they don’t want to miss thier shot at a customer who is a big spender. But if you would rather have an uninterrupted lunch than a larger commission, that is probably your right.

Under Connecticut law, most employees must receive a 30 minute meal break when they work 7.5 consecutive hours or more. The break must be after the first 2 hours of the shift and before the last 2 hours of the shift.

When a break is interrupted, the employer is still in compliance with Connecticut law if the employee is permitted to take 30 or more total minutes of meal or rest breaks during the shift.

In addition, Connecticut law permits exceptions to the break policy when there is a collective bargaining agreement in place, or the employee voluntarily agrees to a different meal break arrangement in writing. The law also permits an exception for a shift when there are fewer than 5 employees on a shift at a single place of business, or when the duites of a position can only be performed by one employee.

Connecticut law also permits two exceptions that don’t apply to you: an exception for continuous operations under some conditions (as in convenience stores) or when breaks would interfere with public safety (as with police or firefighters.)

If you feel that none of these exceptions apply to you, and you are being deprived of your breaks, you can report the employer to the Connecticut Department of Labor at http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/ HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

EJR

November 27, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Hello I have a question today I was scheduled 8:30am to 5:00pm and at 1:30pm I wanted to take a break and the manager said no that I had to continue working and then gave me the ultimatum of go home the rest of the day with no pay or not take a break so I left since I was hungry what can I do? who can I talk to because they do not follow Connecticut law? And will they do anything about this and other offenses? Thanks

Amelia

November 27, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Hi EJR! As you know, Connecticut law requires that the employer give you a meal break of 30 minutes or more between 10:30 am and 3:00 pm. The only exception would be if you were given paid rest periods or meal periods to equal at least 30 minutes on a 7.5-hour shift. There is also an exception when there are fewer than 5 people on a shift, or when only one person can perform specific job activities.

There is no law that the employer must give you a meal break when you demand it, or at the time you choose. The employer can give you a meal break anytime between 10:30 am and 3 pm, and be within the law.

When you work a shift of 7.5 hours or more without a break, you need to file a complaint with the Connecticut Department of Labor at http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/gendocs/contact.html. They will investigate and if they find the employer is in violation of the law, force him to pay fines and penalties. Usually, as soon as the employer knows a complaint has been filed, they begin giving breaks.

Unfortunately, in this case the employer was not required to give you a meal break because you only worked a 5-hour shift, from 8:30 to 1:30. Even when the employer gives you an ultimatum, it is a very bad idea to leave the workplace. When you do so, the employer can assume that you have quit. Unfortunately, in order to file a complaint, you need to have worked a shift of 7.5 hours or more without a meal break. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Melinda

October 22, 2013 at 11:32 am

Hi,
I would like to know if employees are told to take 30 minute breaks but continually do not take them resulting in the company having to pay for the time they work with out a break sometimes resulting in OT for said employee.

Can’t find the answer to this anywhere

Thanks,

Melinda

Amelia

October 23, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Melinda, if you are the employer in this situation, the answer is simple. As the employer, you dictate when employees take their meal breaks. An employee who refuses to go on break when you send her can be disciplined or terminated. (If the employee works through her break, you do have to pay her for that time. But again, you can write her up or fire her for not following company policy/insubordination.) In many work environments, employees cannot be trusted to schedule their own breaks and you will have to monitor it daily.

Our recommendation: have a meeting and let every employee know that from now on you will be setting meal times for each employee. Advise them that there will be consequences if they do not take a break at the specified time, and then follow up daily. Within a few weeks you will see an improvement.

sally

November 8, 2014 at 2:33 pm

I own a sandwich shop in CT., I give my employees a 15 min paid break with free food after 4 hours of work. There is only three employees working at one time.
If we get busy, they need to come back on line so sometimes they can’t finish their break.
what is the break law for sandwich shop workers working less than 7.5 hours?

*not sure if it matters, but they all get paid more than min. wage and receive tips.

Kim cavallini

December 11, 2014 at 9:17 am

the company is telling us we must take a half hour unpaid break when working 5 1/2 hours. we claim minutes. we are to show up 15m before to set up,15 minutes to clean up- total of 5 hours working are cart. I feel they are shaving our minutes- because this company took over 196 stores in united states- lot of over time was made starting 4/21/14- that over with. I have worked for this company 4 years now- in tallahassee fl 6 hr period could take a half or 15m-deduct from my minutes when i report. if i did not take the break- i would not deduct it. please help me, give me the right info . Thank You Kim

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