Federal law does not require lunch or coffee breaks. However, when employers do offer short breaks (usually lasting about 5 to 20 minutes), federal law considers the breaks as compensable work hours that would be included in the sum of hours worked during the work week and considered in determining if overtime was worked. Unauthorized extensions of authorized work breaks need not be counted as hours worked when the employer has expressly and unambiguously communicated to the employee that the authorized break may only last for a specific length of time, that any extension of the break is contrary to the employer's rules, and any extension of the break will be punished.
Bona fide meal periods (typically lasting at least 30 minutes), serve a different purpose than coffee or snack breaks and, thus, are not work time and are not compensable.
DOL Web Pages on This Topic
Hours Worked Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Provides general information about what constitutes compensable time under the FLSA.
Wage and Hour Division's Frequently Asked Questions
Answers questions about breaks.
What Does the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) NOT Require?
The FLSA does not require meal or break periods.
Regulations on Rest Periods
Makes the distinction between rest periods of 5 to 20 minutes and compensable waiting time or on-call time, all of which are paid work time.
Regulations on Meal Periods
Meal periods are not compensable work time.
General Information About the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
An overview of many aspects of the FLSA, ranging from child labor to enforcement.
Handy Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act
Answers many questions about the FLSA and gives information about certain occupations that are exempt from the Act.
Coverage Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Fact Sheet
General information about who is covered by the FLSA.
Wage & Hour Division: District Office Locations
Addresses and phone numbers for Department of Labor district Wage & Hour Division offices.
State Labor Offices/State Laws
Links to state departments of labor contacts, and information on state minimum wage rates and other state child labor topics.
Related Web Pages on This Topic
State and Local Government Information Provided by the Library of Congress Links to various sources of state and local government information.
Laws & Regulations on This Topic
Regulations on rest and meal periods make a distinction between rest periods (usually lasting 5 to 20 minutes) and compensable waiting time or on-call time, all of which are paid work time and meal periods (typically lasting at least 30 minutes that are not compensable work time.
29 CFR 785.18
29 CFR 785.19