Indiana Lunch and Break Law Requirements

I think it is interesting to note that Indiana does not have any laws on the books specifically related lunches and breaks, except those pertaining to minors.

Indiana law requires that minors under age 18 must be given one or two uninterrupted meal or rest period of 30 minutes if they have been scheduled to work six hours or more. The state law does exempt several professions from this requirement. These include: farm laborers, domestic service workers, golf cadies, and newspaper carriers. Employees under 18 who have withdrawn from school or completed a vocational program are also exempt.

Although Indiana does not have a lunch and break law for those persons 18 and over, there are applicable federal rules for Indiana citizens. While Federal Law does not mandate specific breaks or meal periods, it does give guidance as to whether or not an employee should be paid during these times. Short breaks are usually 20 minutes or less, and should be counted as hours worked. Genuine “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 completely relieved of his or her duties during the meal break. If the employee is still required to do any duties (even minor duties such as answering a phone), it can’t be considered a meal or lunch period and must be paid.

Federal law also contains other provisions related to employee pay during times of 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 his or her choosing 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 work 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.

Another issue I find comes up in the area of work hours is the issue of travel time. The general rule of thumb is that 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 a days work, it must be considered paid work time.

When it comes to sleeping time, 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. If an employee is on duty more than 24 hours, a sleeping period of no more than eight hours may be deducted from work hours. However, this can only be done if sleeping quarters are provided and at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep may be achieved by the employee.

Up-to-date information on the laws related to lunches, breaks and other pertinent labor issues can be found on the Indiana Complete Labor Law Poster.

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40 Thoughts on “Indiana Lunch and Break Law Requirements”

sean mailley

May 21, 2008 at 7:18 pm

I’m wondering if time is being taken from you for a lunch time, but you do not actually get one, if this is legal in indiana and if not what can I do ?

Amelia

May 21, 2008 at 7:56 pm

Hi Sean!

This is not legal in Indiana or any other state — employers must pay workers for all the time worked. For a more complete answer, post a question on our sister site, http://www.laborlawtalk.com. Thanks for reading our blog! Amelia

jeremy

October 16, 2008 at 7:46 am

Are there any laws reguarding being on call 24 hours a day, if so is there a minimum amount that you are to be paid when you are called out in the middle of the night? Or any laws pertaining this type of situation?

Amelia

October 16, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Hi Jeremy! That’s a good question! Our sister site, http://www.laborlawtalk.com, is set up specifically to answer this type of question. I’m sure you’ll get an answer if you post it over there. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Andrew George

March 5, 2009 at 9:34 am

My work in Indianapolis IN, says i have to take a hour lunchbreak. Is this true? I am salary non-exempt but not allowed to get overtime anymore.

Amelia

March 5, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Hi Andrew! In Indiana, as in many states, breaks are the employer’s choice, not the employee’s. There is no law in Indiana that an employer must give lunch breaks to workers. But in every state, if the employer requires workers to take a break, and the employees do not comply, the employees can be disciplined or terminated.
With so many people out of work, having overtime reduced is the least of your worries. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Elizabeth R Clyburn

March 25, 2009 at 11:37 am

can an employer deny me a lunch time if I work 8 hours a day?

Amelia

March 25, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Hi Elizabeth! Yes, if you are over 18 and working in Indiana, there is no law that the employer must allow you to take a meal break. This would be true, even if the shift was 12 hours or more. OSHA regulations require that employees be permitted to use the restroom, and to drink water. There are 19 U.S. states that have mandatory meal break laws, but Indiana is not one of them. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Steve

July 27, 2009 at 3:47 pm

I have a friend who lives in indiana. she works a daycare. everyone else but her get to take a lunch break. is there any laws being broke on their part. she is 18.

Amelia

July 27, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Hi Steve! No, there is probably no law being broken here. As noted above, Indiana does not require breaks for any employes over the age of 18. If your friend is being singled out and deprived of breaks because of her race, color, sex, national ancestry, religion, disability, pregnancy or age (between 40 and 70) then this is illegal discrimination. However, if she is merely not given a break because she works part-time, or has the least seniority, that is completely lawful. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

September 9, 2009 at 3:10 am

I have a situation that I am a part time employee and total hours worked for the day are 7. Now, the employer that I work for wants me to take a 30 minute meal break. But at the same time it is required for the warehouse to stay open to show customers what we have available. Can they do this?

Amelia

September 9, 2009 at 10:06 am

Hi Anna! Yes, the employer can require that you take a 30-minute unpaid meal break each day. The employer can discipline or terminate any employee who does not comply.
It sounds like you may be the only employee in the warehouse. In that case, you need to get input from the employer on how to handle customers who may come in while you are on break. The employer can schedule meal breaks for the slowest part of the work day.
Under federal law, if you are relieved from your work duties during the break, it can be unpaid. In practical terms, this means that you take your break in a back room or otherwise away from your work station. However, if you are called back to work during the break (as when a customer enters the warehouse) then you must generally be paid for the entire break. If customers are so frequent that you are almost always called back to work while on break, then you are taking an “on duty” meal break and must always be paid for your meal breaks. However, simply having the warehouse open doesn’t mean you are “working” during your break, if you can complete it uninterrupted. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

nate

October 14, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Is my employer allowed to say that i cannot smoke on a break if i leave the property?

Amelia

October 14, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Hi nate! This is a gray area. A few states such as Wisconsin prohibit employment discrimination against an employee who lawfully uses a product — such as tobacco — away from work, during non-work hours. Indiana has no such protection for smokers under the law.
An employer can require that workers remain on the premises during paid or unpaid rest and meal breaks. The employer can also prohibit all smoking on the premises. An employer can discipline an employee who returns from breaks smelling like tobacco or smoke. So even if the employee is not disciplined for smoking, he or she can be disciplined for returning to work smelling like smoke.
If you feel like the employer is determined to eliminate employees who smoke, or force them to stop smoking…that’s probably true. There is nothing unlawful about such a policy. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Amanda Brown

February 27, 2010 at 8:36 pm

HI! My employer is saying that i have to take a 30 minute lunch break and clock out when i am the only one in the building. I work in assisted living. They are telling me that i must carry my pager and that i cannot leave the building and that i must answer call lights. They say i may resume my break after the task is completed, but they are also taking a half hour out of every 8 hours worked. Can they do this? or is it considered an “on duty” break period? PLEASE help!!

Amelia

February 28, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Hi Amanda! Whether the employer can do this or not depends upon how often you are interrupted. Since Indiana has no meal break law for empoyees over 18, this is covered by the federal FLSA or Fair Labor Standards Act.

The employer can require that you take an unpaid meal break, and that you remain on the premises during that break. However, if you are regularly interrupted while taking your break then all the meal breaks should be paid. For example, if you are interrupted while on your break 4 days out of every 5, then the meal break should be paid. If this is the case, contact the U.S. Department of Labor at http://www.dol.gov.

However, if you are usually not interrupted, then this procedure is legal. For example, if you were interrupted on average once per week or less, then this break would be justified. HTH and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Joseph

June 29, 2010 at 4:27 pm

I understand that Indiana employers do not have to give breaks or lunch periods but must allow an employee to use the bathroom and drink water. What are the rules concerning bathroom visits and water? Can management tell an employee they cant use the bathroom or drink water when they arent given breaks and how much time is given to use the bathroom and drink water?

Amelia

June 29, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Hi Joseph! You are correct that although Indiana has no break law, OSHA worker safety regulations require that employees be permitted to use the toilet “when nature calls” and to drink water. The employer does not have to designate a specific time for these activities, and the employees cannot use this time to make personal phone calls, smoke, etc. However, the employee must be permitted to use the toilet “when nature calls.” An employer who refuses to allow an employee to use the toilet is in violation of federal worker safety standards.

Employees must be permitted to drink water at work. If the employer permits an employee to drink water while working, that satisfies the requirement. If the employer is violating either of these two regulations, your best bet is to file a complaint with OSHA at http://www.osha.gov. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Abby

July 14, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Message Hi, I work for a day care and we have been told that they will no longer allow us to have breaks. We each work 8 hours 5 days a week. I was wondering if this was something that was allowed. We were told we should be greatful if we do get a break during the day.

Amelia

July 14, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Hi Abby! Unfortunately, there is no law in Indiana that requires an employer to give meal breaks or rest breaks to employees. You must be allowed to use the restroom when nature calls, but this does not include making phone calls, smoking, etc. in the restroom. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Bob

July 22, 2010 at 12:18 am

I live and work in Indiana. I am 17 at the moment and i work part time at a fast food restaurant. I am not scheduled 6 hours or more but end up staying later and once have stayed about 7 hours without really any kind of break. Is that allowed or not?

Amelia

July 22, 2010 at 9:01 am

Hi Bob! No, this is not legal. Indiana law requires that a worker under the age of 18 be given a 30 minute meal break when working a shift of 6 or more hours. The break can be unpaid, and must be given between the 3rd and 5th hour of work. There are some exceptions — the law does not cover high school graduates or dropouts. This child labor law applies even if you are scheduled for a shorter shift and end up staying for 6 hours or more. You should tactfully remind your employer of th law (they may have forgotten that you are not yet 18). If the situation does not improve, report the employer to the Indiana Department of Labor at the link below. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Read more about this at: http://www.in.gov/portal/faq.html?faqid=183&p_created=1182975712

Beth

August 5, 2010 at 11:57 am

I work for a company that offers one hour for lunch and two fifteen minute breaks a day. All but two employees are hourly and required to clock in and out for lunch and for breaks. Everything is done by a web based computer program. The program is smart enough to calculate your in time, lunch time, and out time + or – any overages or credits. When you take a break it notes the time in and out but does not count that time as a negative unless you go over the allotted break minutes. At that point it calculates the entire break as a “short lunch” and takes the total amount of the break from your hours. Thus, requiring you to make up that time or not get paid for it. The program, for whatever reason, can not distinguish the overage and just subtract that amount of time. The problem is my employer will not adjust my time on the occasion that I might clock in a minute too late. I know they don’t have to offer us breaks but can they really dock us time like this?

Amelia

August 5, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Hi Beth! The short answer is yes, this is entirely legal, which is probably why the payroll program was designed that way. Under the federal FLSA, employees must be paid for any brief rest breaks that are less than 20 minutes. However, an exception under that law allows the employer to dock the employee’s wages if he or she stays on break longer than the allotted time. In this case, the computer has been set up to enforce this rule. If you take an extra minute or two, the program makes you pay it back by staying later.

The computer is not the villain here — it is simply enforcing company policy that if you take a few extra minutes on your rest break, you have to stay a few minutes later to compensate.

Basically, the policy is that you get two paid breaks of up to 15 minutes each — not 30 minutes of paid breaks to divide any way you like. The employer could choose to let you cut your second 15-minute break short to compensate, but apparently they do not. That is entirely reasonable and legal. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Beth

August 5, 2010 at 1:44 pm

So if my breaks are 15 minutes long and I clock in after 17 minutes they are then allowed to dock my time for the whole 17 minutes?

Amelia

August 5, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Hi Beth! No, under the federal FLSA if you take 17 minutes for a 15 minute break, the employer can dock you for 2 minutes. They could insist that you work 2 minutes later, instead. The employer also could discipline you or even terminate you for repeatedly violating the company break policy. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Read more about this at: http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/workhours/breaks.htm

Mike

October 21, 2010 at 10:03 pm

I live in indiana and work as a bartender in a hotel. They take a half hour our of my check each shift even thought i dont get a break. This cant be legal right?

Amelia

October 21, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Hi Mike! You are correct. Both federal and Indiana minimum wage laws require that you be paid for all hours worked, as well as overtime if you work more than 40 hours per week. If you work 8 hours in a shift, you must be paid for 8 hours, not 7.5 hours. We suggest that you bring this matter up with the HR department. If they do not correct the problem, file a wage complaint with the Indiana Department of Labor at http://www.in.gov/dol/wagehour.htm. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Amelia

john

November 4, 2010 at 3:02 pm

i drive a truck locally and i’m paid by the load.now when we get back to the yard and there are no loads ready we have to wait for the next one and the company will not pay us for waiting time,sometimes if there is work on the dock we can help but for the most part we just wait in our trucks and do not get paid.Is this legal ? thanks for your help

Amelia

November 4, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Hi john! No, it’s probably not legal. Normally when an employee is required to wait on the company premises for work, the employee is being “engaged to wait” meaning the employee must be paid for sitting around. Our suggestion is that you contact the Indiana Department of Labor about this situation at http://www.in.gov/dol/. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Renee

December 22, 2010 at 11:57 pm

My employer is requiring me to clock out for 30 minutes every shift and I currently only work 5 to 5.5 hours is this legal (Indiana)

Amelia

December 23, 2010 at 7:01 am

Hi Renee! Yes, this is legal. An employer can require that workers take a 30 minute meal break, and discipline or terminate any employe who refuses. If you were required to work during the break but not paid for it, that would be illegal. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

jjjj

January 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm

I ws wondering if it was legal if I ws scheduled to work two days but they took my hours away for those days and gave them to someone else even though that person could go to a different department and work.

Amelia

January 3, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Hi jjj! Yes, this is probably legal, depending upon why the employer changed your schedule. Generally speaking, the employer sets the work schedule and can change it at will. If you were given fewer hours based on your race, color, religion, sex, disability, age (over 40) etc. then that could be illegal discrimination. However, if the employer simply prefers one employee over another, that is legal. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Alicia

June 27, 2014 at 6:09 am

Hi there. I have an employer that is trying to discipline me for using the bathroom at the end of my shift. I had been having intestinal issues all week and couldn’t hold it.
I’ve done a bit of research and I’ve found interpretations stating that they cannot regulate when I go but that I’m not to take more than 20 min. But I can’t find the actual statement of the law. Can you help?

Amelia

July 4, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Hi Alicia,

Actually it’s a bit more complicated than that. We will say, if this was a one-time event (and you genuinely did use the toilet rather than smoke or talk on your cell phone in the bathroom, and did not leave work early) then the employer is being unreasonable.

Both the relevant regulations are federal. The federal worker safety organization, OSHA, requires that employees be allowed to use the toilet “when they need to do so.” Here’s a link to that OSHA memo: https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=22932. OSHA does allow employers to set “reasonable restrictions” on toilet use, and what are reasonable restrictions depends upon each industry and situation.

There is actually no regulation that would prevent an employee (perhaps one with a health problem) from being in the toilet more than 20 minutes. It’s simply that the federal FLSA (the minimum wage law) requires employers to pay workers for any break shorter than 20 minutes. So, if you were in the toilet 19 minutes, the employer must pay you for it. If you were in the toilet 21 minutes, you need not be paid for it.

Let us know if you have more questions on this topic.

August 1, 2014 at 1:37 am

I am been looking into the federal and state laws for the state of Indiana. I work for an assisted living facitily as a LPN ( licensed practical nurse ). I work a 6 hour shift as all of the nurses do. We are all being told we have to clock out for a 30 minute break because it is a federal law. I am not finding that to be true in all of my research. I understand about the under 18 law. I feel they are using this tool with fear tactics, when in truth it is a company policy instead. Am I correct ? I also am going to be 61 years old this coming October and feeling like they are taking advantage of me with switching my schedule. I was hired in as a 2 day a week schedule. This past week I have my last Monday evening scheduled for good, and lost my Thursday evening scheduled. They fired another nurse a week ago and telling me if I can’t pick up her full time hours that they will be hiring a nurse to do her former hours ! There for I will be out of a job. Is this lawful on there part. It sure doesn’t seem to be right. Please help me with solid advice.
Thanks in advance

Amelia

August 1, 2014 at 10:05 am

Lana, we suggest you let the break issue go and focus on the other two issues in your post–work hours and age discrimination.

You are correct that there is no Indiana or federal law that requires employees over 18 to take an unpaid meal break. However, it is a best practice in HR, for employers to require such breaks. Very few employees are going to work 6 hours without eating anything. Giving meal breaks where employees are relieved of all duties has actually been shown to increase productivity. And, in addition, it reduces payroll costs. As long as you are genuinely being relieved of all duties during your 30-minute unpaid meal break, we see no problem with it.

You are right that this is “just” a company policy. However, each employer has the right to establish their company policies, and to discipline or terminate any employee who refuses to follow them. That’s not a scare tactic, it’s just the reality of the workplace in the US.

The change in your work schedule is a different issue entirely. We assume from your post that you have worked 2 days per week regularly since you were hired. If the employer suddenly changes your work schedule to 5 days per week, you have a one-time option to accept this change or decline it. If the employer fires you for refusing accept a significant change in working conditions, you will likely qualify for unemployment benefits. (If you are denied, you should appeal.) Document this if you possibly can.

However, be aware that if you work the new schedule even one week, and then quit or are fired, you will not qualify for unemployment benefits. That’s because by working the new schedule, you accepted the change in working conditions.

There is nothing illegal or unethical about a company suddenly deciding they want to staff with all full-time employees rather than part-time employees. However, if they laid you off for this reason, you would be entitled to unemployment benefits while you looked for a new job.

You may be right in assuming that your age has something to do with the way the employer is treating you, and you can certainly consult an attorney or the EEOC about this. However, age discrimination is notoriously hard to prove. Unless you can document that the employer allows younger LPNs to work without a meal break, or to work part-time, it’s going to be very difficult to prove that their actions are age discrimination.

Joe c

August 1, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Apparently, from what i have been reading, while it is not mandatory for an employer to give a lunch break, the employer may mandate a lunch period for workers over 18. Is the employer mandated lunch period limited to 30 minutes, or can they make it an hour?

Amelia

August 1, 2014 at 5:45 pm

You’re absolutely right Joe, an Indiana employer can make an unpaid lunch break mandatory. It’s the employer’s decision whether the required meal break is 30 minutes or 60 minutes. As long as the employee is relieved of all duties, he or she is not entitled to payment for that time. (It becomes problematic if an employer tries to require an extended unpaid lunch, like 90 minutes or more.)

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