Work is rewarding, but it can also be exhausting. So what do North Carolina labor laws say about breaks during the workday?
Unfortunately, there are very few federal or NC labor laws about breaks at work.
In fact, neither federal nor North Carolina labor laws require employers to give employees rest or meal breaks if they are over the age of 16.
While your employer is not obligated under state or federal law to give you a break, they can still obligate themselves to give breaks in their own employment policies. And your employer might also be obligated to pay you for certain rest times you have throughout your shift.
To make sure you get the most out of your employee rights, speak to a skilled attorney. At EMP Law, our experienced North Carolina employment lawyers help employees overcome the odds and win justice against exploitative employers.
What Are the Federal and NC Break Laws?
A rest or lunch break during your shift can make a huge difference in your productivity and mood. But it is up to your employer to decide whether or not you receive a break.
NC Lunch Break Laws
There is no requirement under federal law for employers to give their employees lunch breaks. And North Carolina lunch break laws require only certain employers to give employees under the age of 16 rest breaks. Eligible employees under 16 years old must receive a break of 30 minutes or longer after working for five hours.
If you are over the age of 16, you are not entitled to a lunch break under North Carolina law. This news is disheartening, but there are some silver linings.
Many employers recognize that they have to give employees opportunities to eat if they want the best work product. If your employer allows you to eat in the middle of a shift, they must give you at least 30 minutes for an unpaid meal break, or they must pay you to eat.
North Carolina work break law requires employers to pay employees during meal breaks that are less than 30 minutes. And federal law requires employers to pay employees during meal breaks that are 20 minutes or less.
NC Rest Break Laws
Under federal and NC labor laws, rest breaks are not required in the workplace. However, any rest breaks you receive that are 20 minutes or less are compensable under federal law. And any rest breaks you receive under 30 minutes are compensable under state law.
If you rest during a lull in your shift, do not let your employer claim it is an unpaid rest break.
If you are “engaged to wait” during a lull in your shift, your employer must pay you for your waiting time. You are engaged to wait if you must be present for an activity, but the activity has not yet begun.
Complaints for Break Time Violations
You should receive payment for breaks that last less than about 20 to 30 minutes. Depending on how your break time adds up throughout the workweek, your employer might owe you overtime pay for the sum of your short breaks. An employer who does not pay you properly for short breaks commits wage theft.
You can hold your employer accountable for wage theft and recover unpaid wages by filing a wage and hour complaint. You can file a complaint with the United States Department of Labor or the North Carolina Department of Labor.
If your employer violates their own break policies, you might have additional legal rights and should speak to a North Carolina employment attorney.
Let Us Help Protect Your Livelihood
At EMP Law, our attorneys are skilled, experienced, and determined. We are who you need when you face workplace disputes with your employer. Our legal team has a proven track record of success and have won over $1,000,000 for mistreated workers.
From our offices in Winston-Salem and Charlotte, we fight for employees throughout North Carolina. If you have concerns about how your workplace treats you, call us at (336) 724-2828 or contact us online.