Breaks & Meal Periods

by Deborah Z Mark

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Federal and Arizona law do not require lunch breaks or coffee/snack breaks for employees.

When employers do offer short breaks (usually no more than 20 minutes), the breaks are considered compensable work hours that must be included in total number of hours worked during the work week, and considered in determining overtime.

Unauthorized extensions of authorized breaks do not need to be counted as hours worked when the employer has expressly and unambiguously communicated to the employee that the authorized break may last only for a specific period of time, that any extension of the break is contrary to company policy, and any extension of the break will result in disciplinary action.

Meal periods (typically at least 30 minutes) serve a different purpose other than work breaks, so are not considered work time and not subject to compensation.

Breaks and meal periods are a decision of the individual employer, and should be addressed in the company’s employee handbook.  To order a customized employee handbook or amend your existing handbook, give managestaff a call.

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