Employee Meal Periods

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Many employees find themselves working shifts with an employer which takes them through normal meal periods.  Both employees and employers alike may be confused as to what “lunch break” an employee may be entitled.  The employees rights and the employer’s responsibilities are specifically identified in Connecticut General Statute Section 31-51ii.

Under this section of Connecticut law, no employee is required to work seven and one-half or more consecutive hours without a period of at least thirty (30) consecutive minutes for a meal break.  These thirty minutes must be provided by the employer at some time after the first two hours of work, but before the last two hours.

Does this mean that each employee, no matter what employer they work for, is entitled to this meal break?  The answer to that question is no as the Department of Labor has identified exemptions to this meal requirement.  Under the law, the Labor Commissioner shall exempt any employer from this meal requirement if the Labor Commissioner finds that: (1) requiring compliance would be adverse to public safety; (2) the duties of a position of the employee may only be performed by one employee; (3) the employer employs less than five employees on a particular shift at a single place of business, provided that the exemption shall only apply to the employees on such shift; or (4) the continuous nature of an employer’s operations requires that employees be available to respond to urgent or unusual conditions at all times and such employees are compensated for break and meal periods.

A fifth, and most discussed exemption to the meal period applies to educators.  Under the law, the meal period requirement does not apply to any professional employee certified by the State Board of Education and employed by a local or regional board of education of any town, or regional school district to work directly with children.

Lastly, an employer may exempt themselves from this statutorily required meal period if they provide thirty or more total minutes of paid rest or meal periods to employees within each seven and one-half hour work period.

If you are an employee who believes that you have been denied your meal period, or if you are an employer seeking to establish appropriate policies or have been accused of not providing appropriate meal periods to employees, please call the experienced employment counsel at Harlow, Adams & Friedman, P.C. today at 203-878-0661 for a free consultation.

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