New York Law Requires Meal Breaks for Employees

If you work more than six hours in a day, then your employer must give you a meal break.  All private and public sector employers in New York State are covered by this law.

Your employer is not required to compensate you for time you spend eating your meal.  However, your employer must pay you if your meal break is interrupted.

You must be completely relieved of your duties during your meal break.  Your employer may not require you to remain at your desk or work area during your meal break.  If you are required to do any work at all during your meal break, then you must be paid for the meal break time.

Your employer may also allow you to take short breaks of 20 minutes or less.  You must be paid your regular pay for any short breaks.

How Long Is the Required Meal Break?

The length of your meal break will depend on where you work.

Non-factory workers are entitled to a 30 minute lunch break between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. if their shift last six hours or longer.  For shifts that begin between 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., non-factory workers are entitled to a 45 minute meal break midway between the beginning and end of their shift if their shift lasts more than six hours.

Factory workers are entitled to a 60 minute lunch break between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.  For shifts starting between 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., factory workers are entitled to a 60 minute meal break midway begin between the beginning and end of their shift if their shift lasts more than six hours.

Additional Meal Breaks for Long Shifts

Employees are entitled to a second meal break of 20 minutes if their workday begins before 11 AM and ends after 7 PM.  For example, if you are a nurse working a 12 hour shift, then you are entitled to both a 30 minute meal break for lunch and a 20 minute meal break for dinner.

Meal Break Violations Are Very Common

You would be surprised how many employers violate the meal break laws by interrupting workers during their meal breaks or by not giving them meal breaks at all.

Hospitals, nursing homes, and nurse staffing agencies are some of the most flagrant violators of the meal break laws.  We have represented hundreds of nurses who were unable to take their meal breaks because the floor was too busy, but their employer automatically deducted a half-hour every day from their paychecks as if they actually took meal breaks every day.  In every case, we were able to get the nurses paid for those phantom meal breaks.

If your employer is not giving you a meal break every day -- or if they are deducting for meal breaks even when you are unable to take one -- then you should consult with an experienced employment lawyer right away.  You may have a claim for significant damages.

Call us at (212) 601-2728 to arrange a free and confidential consultation.  Or just complete the contact form on this page to learn how much you may be owed in back pay.