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Meal & Rest Periods

NY Labor Laws: Meal and Rest Periods

As a resident of New York, there are labor laws in place to protect you. While we often think about wage violations, health care benefits, and discrimination, 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. This includes your rights to meal and rest periods in certain industries. If you have not been receiving 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 to be taken at a time midway between the beginning and end of the shift. All shifts receive this break if they last 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. They should typically occur at a 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 Do Labor Laws Cover for Breaks?

New York State Labor Law protects all private and public employees. However, the above circumstances must be followed.

For example, a factory worker is one who operates in or in connection with a factory. They would receive protection by law. This 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. This is important to remember when certain job designations can be a grey area of employment.

Exceptions to Labor Laws

In addition, if there is only one employee on duty on a shift, the employer may require the employee to eat on the job without relief. Under this One-Employee Shift rule, an employee still has to give voluntary consent. 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 gives 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 early every day by skipping breaks. Instead, an employer may negotiate that if there is a need to do so, an employee can leave early by working through a typical break period.

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. When an employer does not obey the law, it can result in a legal intervention.

If you are being forced to work for long hours without a break, 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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