Should you be paid for your cigarette break, meal break, rest break, lunch break, coffee break or bathroom break?  What if your employer automatically deducts your lunch break but you never actually have time to take a lunch break?  Find out when you should be paid for breaks in Ohio for employment attorneys.  The answers to these questions could impact whether you are entitled to overtime compensation or other wages.

In this article the Wage and Hour Attorneys at Mansell Law provide everything you need to know about Ohio break laws, including lunch break laws, short break laws, and break laws for minors.

Ohio Lunch Break Laws and Meal Periods

Under Federal law and Ohio law, an employer is required to pay its employees for all time spent performing “compensable” work. However, employers do not have to compensate employees during “bona fide meal periods.” A bona fide meal period, aka a lunch break or dinner break, is an uninterrupted break where the employee is relieved from all job duties for the purpose of eating meals. In other words, whether a lunch break should be paid depends on whether you actually stop working.

A lunch break is different from a brief rest break, such as a trip to the break room to get coffee. Short rest breaks of between five (5) and twenty (20) minutes are common, and employees must be paid during this time (More on this below). For a lunch break to be unpaid, the employee also must not be required to perform any work activities during a bona fide meal period.  Otherwise, an employer is required to pay the employee. For example, if an employee was required to eat at his or her desk and answer the phone during the break, then the break is not a bona fide meal break and it must be compensated.

Generally, bona fide meal periods must last 30 minutes or longer. However, under certain conditions, a shorter period of time may qualify:

    Examples of Ohio Lunch Break Laws

  • Bob works in an office, and his union agrees to a 20-minute unpaid lunch break and a 10-minute paid break during the work day for employees. Bob is completely relieved from his job duties during this 20-minute break, and the placement of break rooms in the company is such that any employee could access a break room is less than a minute. This 20-minute unpaid break will likely qualify as a bona fide meal period.
  • Bill works in a factory, and he too is provided a 20-minute unpaid lunch break and a 10-minute paid break during his shift. Bill is completely relieved from his job duties during this time, but due to safety concerns, he cannot eat on the factory floor and must eat in the break room, which is about a five-minute walk from the factory floor. This 20-minute unpaid break will not qualify as a bona fide meal period, since the time Bill spends walking to and from the break room significantly reduces his meal time. Bill’s employer needs to pay him during these breaks.

Employers also frequently have automatic deductions for lunch breaks or meals breaks.  For example, a Registered Nurse is scheduled to work from 8:00am to 8:30pm – a 12.5 hour shift – but only receives pay for 12 hours because the hospital automatically deducts a half-hour for a meal break.  If the nurse always gets an interrupted 30 minute lunch break, then the automatic deduction policy complies with the law.  However, if the nurse is sometimes required to work the entire 12.5 hours with a meal break or is interrupted during her lunch break to perform work, the automatic deduction would like violate Federal and Ohio break laws and overtime laws.

Each situation is different, and a thorough review of the facts may be required to determine if your meal breaks should be paid or unpaid.  If you believe that you are not being properly compensated for break time or have other questions about your wages or employment, please reach out for a free consultation.

Ohio Breaks Laws: Cigarette Breaks, Rest Breaks, Coffee Breaks, Bathroom Breaks (Short Breaks)

Ohio law and federal law do not require that an employer provide any breaks (except for minors) for any duration.  So what does that mean for short breaks such as cigarette breaks, coffee breaks, or rest breaks?

Breaks of a short duration, running from 5 minutes to about 20 minutes, are common in the work place. These breaks promote the efficiency of the employee and are customarily paid for as working time. They must be counted as hours worked. Compensable time of short breaks may not be offset against other working time such as compensable waiting time or on-call time.

So, if an employer permits short breaks (20 minutes or less) the employer must pay you for the break.  This is true even if you take 3 or 4 short breaks in a day (as long as the breaks are not back-to-back and any one break does not exceed 20 minutes).  A word of caution, an employer can discipline employees – up to an including termination – if an employee is taking excessive breaks or abusing a company break policy.

If you are not being paid for short breaks or your employer is requiring you to stay late or come in early to make up time spent on short breaks, you are likely entitled to compensation. Contact Mansell Law to find out more.

Breaks for Minors in Ohio

Ohio break laws have some differences when it comes to minors (employees under the age of 18).  Ohio law requires that minors under age 18 be given a 30 minute meal break if they have worked five hours or more. The meal break may be an unpaid break.  There are also laws that prevent the length of time a minor may work in a single day and single week.  During breaks from school (eg. summer vacation), minors in Ohio are not allowed to work more than 8 hours per day and no more than 40 hours per week.  On school days, a minor is not permitted to work more than 3 hours per day and no more than 18 per week.

If you have questions related to Ohio Break Laws or think your employer may be violating the break laws or other overtime or wage laws, contact Mansell Law for a free consultation.

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