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Work breaks are not an automatic right in the workplace

| Aug 28, 2017 | Wage And Hour |

It may seem like common sense that in the working world, a Missouri employee would have rights to reasonably needed breaks from the work day. After all, workers may need to rest briefly, eat a meal or address another basic need.

As evident as that may be, there is no clear-cut law requiring a meal break or any other kind of break, even after many hours of working.

Missouri law on work breaks

According to the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, state law has no work break mandate. It does not even require a lunch or meal break after many hours of work. Rather, it leaves the decision as to whether to provide breaks up to the employer. This generally means that a thoughtful employer may make it a company policy to include breaks. If there is no company policy, an employee and employer may agree or contract between themselves that the employee has the right to one or more breaks.

Interestingly, this lack of mandate in the law also applies to minors, referred to as youth workers, under the age of 16.

Federal law on work breaks

The U.S. Department of Labor indicates that federal law is not very different from that of Missouri. Remarkably, however, when an employer does have a policy of providing breaks, those breaks are compensable. In other words, they are part of the paid work day and would add to the pay roll calculations as well as any overtime determinations for the employee.

However, abuses to the work break policy, such as taking longer breaks than allowed, are not only unpaid, but may also lead to punishment. Also, actual meal breaks, such as a 30-minute lunch, if part of company policy, receive different treatment under federal law than short breaks do, in that they enjoy no compensation mandate.

Despite the lack of set law requiring work breaks in the Missouri workplace, a conscientious employer may choose to have a company policy in place allowing certain breaks. One can only presume that doing so better ensures that employee morale and production levels remain as strong as possible.