Employees might be surprised to learn that their employers are generally a lot more laid back about breaks than is required by law. Of course, it’s in the best interest of the employer to treat employees respectfully and give them full reign of their bodily needs, since, for example, a smoker employee who is not allowed smoke breaks is not going to be a happy employee.
So what exactly are an employee’s rights in the work place, as far as breaks are concerned?
Massachusetts is in the minority of states that require employees to have 30 minutes time off for every six hours worked. This can be paid or unpaid, although it should be paid if the employee is confined to a particular location, or if the employee is expected to do some light work.
Neither state nor federal law requires that employers give employees free, paid breaks. If an employee is given a break, it is generally through the employer’s grace. However, it is usually in the best interest of employers to permit their workers to rest and relax a bit every few hours.
Again, state and federal law don’t have anything to say about bathroom breaks, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) forbids employers from unreasonably restricting bathroom use. If this is happening at your place of employment, you should consider talking to your employer about it and contacting an employment attorney or OSHA if necessary.
Reasonable Accommodations: If you need a little extra time due to a disability, the American with Disabilities Act and other state laws require that your employer give it to you. Importantly, your employer doesn’t need to give you all the time in the world, you can’t hold the employer back unreasonably. So it’s good to talk with your employer and try to work something out if you need time. This is in the best interests of both of you.
No regulating body, state, federal, ADA, or OSHA, requires your employer to give you paid smoking breaks.
This one is similar to disability accommodations, if you need extra time to take care of a religious necessity, then your employer should not deny you unreasonably, since that could be discriminatory. However, you shouldn’t take it too far, since an employer should expect you to be reasonable about it too. The most important point is to talk with your employer in an effort to work out a fair agreement.
Breast Milk Breaks:
If you are a recent mother who needs to stock up on breast milk, then your employer is required to provide breaks for you to do it. This is mandatory for employers with more than fifty employees. With less than fifty, it’s mandatory so long as it doesn’t overly burden the employer.
This is just a sampling of the breaks that you may or may not be entitled to on the job. It is always recommended that you communicate with your employer about your situation, and if all else fails, contact an employment attorney.
Photo credit: Microsoft