Massachusetts law requires all employers to provide a 30-minute lunch period to all employees who work six hours or more. It is important to note that the law does not require that the meal break be paid, just that it is given.
However, if an employee’s movement is restricted, or the employee is required to complete functions of his or her job during the lunch break Massachusetts law requires the employer to pay the employee his or her normal hourly wage for that lunch break.
While any employee can voluntarily waive a lunch break, an employer cannot coerce the employee to waive his or her break. Something as seemingly innocent as questioning an employee about his or her willingness to waive a lunch break may be viewed as coercion and should be avoided. In fact, if an employee chooses to waive his or her lunch break, it would be prudent for the employer to require the employee to sign a waiver of the lunch break for placement in his or her personnel file.
Beyond the required meal break, there is no law in Massachusetts that requires employers to provide employees with additional rest periods. Although many employers do provide 10 to 15 minutes breaks during the day as a practical matter, employees in jobs that allow for periodic rests throughout the date often are not granted additional rest breaks. If you decide to allow additional rest periods for your employees, be aware that federal regulations require that any break period of twenty minutes or less must be paid as “hours worked.” This fact should be taken into account when establishing a “break” policy.
Although lunch and rest breaks seem like minor considerations, they are monitored by both state and federal law. Therefore, they should be noted and considered when organizing and running your business to ensure that you are in compliance with the legal requirements.