FAQ Friday – What are Idaho’s laws about employee breaks?

Q. What are Idaho’s laws on breaks (lunch, vacation and otherwise)?

lunchbreakIdaho currently does not have any laws that require an employer to provide:

      1. Vacation, holiday, severance or sick pay.
      2. A discharge notice or a reason for discharge.
      3. Rest periods, breaks, lunch breaks, holidays off or vacations.
      4. Premium pay rates for weekends or holidays worked.
      5. Pay raises or fringe benefits or
      6. A limit on the number of hours an employee can work per day or week for employees 16 years of age or older.

If an Idaho employer does offer these benefits, then any change in a current policy would require notifying employees.

Here’s what you need to know about federal rules on breaks:

Rest breaks

The Fair Labor Standards Act recognizes employers often provide short breaks of between five and 20 minutes to workers. These breaks are for resting, smoking, using the bathroom or eating a snack. Neither the FLSA nor any federal law requires employers to provide this break no matter how many hours are worked. However, if employers do provide this break, it counts toward hours worked. Employees, when given these breaks, must be paid for them.

Meal breaks

Federal employment law does not require employers to provide meal breaks under any circumstances, nor do they require employers to pay workers for meal periods. They are not considered to be hours worked. Federal employment laws define a meal break as time taken when the worker has no job-related responsibilities, usually for a period of 30 minutes or more. Employers can ask workers to stay at the job site during meal breaks, but if an employee is asked to sit at their desk or answer calls during the period, it does not qualify as a meal break.

Sleep breaks

Employees who work for more than 24 consecutive hours may need breaks to sleep, but federal law does not mandate employers to provide sleeping breaks in these circumstances. If the worker arranges such a break with his employer, the employer does not need to pay for the break, because according to the FLSA, sleeping breaks are not hours worked. To qualify as a sleep break, the rest period must be between five and eight hours.

Health breaks

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act is designed to prevent discrimination in the workplace against individuals with disabilities. Under the ADA, an employer must make reasonable accommodation for special needs. This includes breaks for individuals with diabetes to have snacks and check their blood levels. The ADA does not provide a list of other health breaks, instead preferring that the details to be worked out between employer and worker or, if necessary, in court.

Bathroom breaks

No federal law directly addresses bathroom breaks, however, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration determines that an “employer may not impose unreasonable restrictions on employee use of the [toilet] facilities.” In other words, there are no strict rules regarding time limits or pay for bathroom breaks, but workers should have access to bathrooms and be able to use them.