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As HR attorneys, we receive a lot of questions from employers about employee breaks. When are they required? How long must they last? Do we have to pay them? Throughout the next few weeks, we will spend some time answering the most frequently asked break-related questions.

QUESTION: As an Employer, am I required to provide rest breaks to my employees?

ANSWER: Likely not, but it depends on your state law.

Most states do NOT require employers to provide employees with a specified amount of time to take breaks throughout the day. However, some states require access to restroom and the opportunity to get coffee or snacks. Below we have outlined rest break laws vary from one state to the next.

Minnesota: Employees are entitled to take an “adequate” rest break within each four consecutive hours worked to use the nearest convenient bathroom. So long as the break is less than 20 minutes, the employee must be paid during the break, and the break must be counted towards hours worked.

Illinois, New York, Texas & Massachusetts: Employees are not entitled to a rest break under these states’ laws. However, employers who choose to provide rest breaks must still comply with federal labor laws, which require short breaks (typically under twenty minutes) to be paid. Generally, employers are not obligated to pay employees for breaks lasting over twenty minutes.

California: It is no surprise that California law requires employers to provide generous rest breaks to employees. The California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders require employers to provide a ten-minute paid rest break for every four hours worked, or a “major fraction thereof.” This is a complicated way of saying that employers must provide employees who work three and a half hours one rest break, employees who work over six hours two rest breaks, and employees who worked over ten hours three rest breaks. However, there are exceptions and additional requirements for workers in certain industries, so employers with nonexempt employees in California should check with an HR attorney to ensure they are providing the adequate rest breaks to their employees.

Keep an eye out for a Tip of the Week addressing meal breaks in the future. If you have additional questions regarding employee rest break requirements in your region, please contact your Thompson Coe attorney at (651) 389-5000 or at  You can also find helpful information and previous HR tips at

Thompson Coe and myHRgenius Tip of the Week is not intended as a solicitation, does not constitute legal advice, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.


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Kevin M. Mosher

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