Enforcing Rest and Meal Periods in Hectic Work Environments

Restaurants, coffee shops, hair salons, call centers, and customer focused offices often have “just enough” staffing on hand at any given time. Limited staffing makes it challenging to relieve an employee for a rest period or meal break.  An employee who leaves the work area, even for a small amount of time often causes stress and increased workloads on colleagues. This factor, though understandable, does not release an employer from providing mandatory rest periods and breaks to its employees.

Breaks and meal periods should, therefore, be scheduled in accordance with state law requirements; for example, some states require that employees receive a paid ten minute break for every four hour segment of work or an unpaid meal period of at least thirty minutes in duration after an employee works five consecutive hours. Other states require that employees under the age of 18 are provided with paid rest breaks or meal periods, but the laws do not apply to an employee who is over the age of 18.

If your state mandates paid rest breaks or meal periods, you may need to make staffing adjustments during break periods or have an employee who is a designated ‘floater’ to cover other employees while they take their required rest breaks and meal periods. Some employers achieve this by designating the senior management team to step in and cover employees’ work station while they are on their breaks.  This will not only ensure that there is adequate customer coverage, but will help the management team ensure that employees are taking their rest breaks and meal periods as required.

Structuring the schedules and effectively communicating the requirement of the rest and meal periods to the management team and to employees will help promote that employees receive mandatory rest and meal periods.  This will help ensure that the company’s practices are compliant with state laws.

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