Washington employers are required to pay their workers for a rest break of at least 10 minutes for each 4 hours worked. The rest break must be allowed no later than the end of the third hour of the shift.
Employers may allow their workers to take several "mini" breaks in each 4 hours of working time. If these mini breaks total 10 minutes this substitutes for a scheduled rest break. Examples of mini rest breaks are personal phone calls, eating a snack, personal conversations, smoke breaks, and whenever there is no work to do for a few minutes during a work shift.
If more than 5 hours are worked in a shift, Washington employers must allow their employees to take at least a 30-minute meal period. The employee must be at least 2 hours into their shift before the meal period can start, and the meal period cannot start more than 5 hours after the beginning of the shift.
Meal Periods - Paid or Unpaid
Meal period breaks are unpaid unless:
- employees are required or allowed to remain on duty,
- employees are required to be on-call at the business premises or designated worksite to be available to return to duty even if they are not in fact called back to duty, and
- employees are called back to duty during their meal period even though they normally are not on call during the meal period.
Employees can waive their right to a meal period if they prefer to work through it and if the employer agrees. The Department of Labor & Industries recommends that you get a written statement from workers who want to give up their meal periods.
For more detailed information, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries has an excellent downloadable PDF on this topic.
Contact Mark D. Walters