NY Labor Laws: Meal and Rest Periods | BKL Lawyers

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As a resident of New York, there are laws in place which protect you. While we often think about wage violations, health care benefits, and discrimination, the day-to-day operations can often lead to big complications for employees.

If you are employed in New York State, you are protected under New York Labor Laws, including rights to meal and rest periods in certain industries. If you have not been given fair breaks or adequate compensation for working through breaks, you need legal help. Brown Kwon & Lam explains why.

New York Labor Laws on Meal and Rest Breaks

Under Labor Law Section 162, there are certain protections in place to protect workers from working too many hours without reprieve. The law defines the following employees’ rights to breaks:

  • Factory Workers are entitled to a 60-minute lunch break between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. For shifts starting between 1 p.m. and 6 a.m., employees are entitled to a 60-minute meal break at the time midway between the beginning and end of the shift for all shifts of more than six hours.
  • Non-Factory Workers are entitled to a 30-minute lunch break between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. for shifts six hours or longer that extend over that period. For those working shifts that start between 1 p.m. and 6 a.m., employees are entitled to a 45-minute meal break at the time midway between the beginning and end of the shift.
  • All Workers are entitled to an additional 20-minute meal break between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. for workdays that extend from before 11 a.m. to after 7 p.m.

Under certain circumstances, employers may petition the Commissioner for shorter meal periods if such a circumstance is permissible.

Who is covered under the labor laws for breaks?

Under New York State Labor Law, all private and public employees are protected by law. However, the above circumstances must be followed.

For example, a factory worker is one who is employed in or in connection with a factory, but that does not include “dry dock plants engaged in making repairs to ships, powerhouses, generating plants and other structures owned or operated by a public service corporation.”

However, if an employee “who works in or whose primary duties involve the maintenance and/or operation of a factory is a factory worker for the purposes of Section 162 of the Labor Law.”

Obviously, this can make things complicated not just for the employee, but the employer as well, when certain job designations can be the grey area of employment.

In addition, if on a shift there is only one employee on duty, the employer may require the employee to eat on the job without being relieved. Under this One-Employee Shift rule, voluntary consent to such must be given. In addition, the employer must show that the employee understands:

  • The nature of the industry in which the employer must have one-employee shifts
  • The employee’s meal periods may be interrupted

The employer must also have, preferably in writing, that the employee acknowledges the agreement:

  • When the employee is hired; or
  • Before the time the employee would be expected to give up his/her uninterrupted meal periods

If the employer does not have this document, it is not a valid one-employee shift agreement.

Exceptions to Labor Law

In some cases, an employee may prefer not to take a break to leave work sooner. Because meal breaks are not paid time, under certain circumstances, this may be permissible.

An employee can consent to not taking a meal break if:

  • The operational needs of the industry make strict compliance with the meal period provisions impractical
  • The waiver was obtained openly and knowingly, absent of duress or coercion, through good faith negotiation
  • The employees received a desired benefit through the negotiations in return for such a waiver

However, it is unlikely that an employee and employer can agree to a long-term contract where an employee can leave every day early by skipping breaks. Instead, it may be negotiated that if there is a need to do so, an employee can leave early by working through a typical break period.

Employers can also round break time if such a circumstance requires it, so long as an employee gets their break time.

New York Labor Law: An Employee’s Right to Breaks

Knowing if, when, and how long of a break you are entitled to as an employee in New York State is often a large part of the day-to-day functions which, when not obeyed by the employer, can result in a legal intervention.

If you have been forced to work for long hours without a break, know that you don’t have to stand for it. The employment attorneys of Brown Kwon & Lam are here for you. Contact us today.

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