Can I Work Without Taking a Lunch Break in New York?

Employment Law News | February 25, 2021

Although federal employment laws do not require employers to provide lunch breaks, state laws often impose different requirements. In New York, employers must provide meal breaks to certain employees. New York employers must provide certain employees with meal periods. However, there are certain rules about when employees can take lunch breaks, how long these breaks should be, and breaks for salaried employees.

What Are New York’s Lunch and Rest Break Requirements?

Section 162 of the New York State Labor Law requires New York employers to provide lunch breaks to most employees who work more than six hours per day. The length of these required breaks depends on the industry the employee works in and the shift that he or she works.

  • If an employee works in a factory, he or she must receive a one-hour break between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Non-factory workers must receive a 30-minute lunch break between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. if they work a shift that lasts for at least six hours.
  • If any employee covered by the law begins his or her shift begins before 11 a.m. and ends after 7 p.m., he or she must receive an additional 20-minute meal break between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
  • If an employee works a shift that lasts more than six hours that begins between 1 p.m. and 6 a.m., his or her employer must provide a lunch break in the middle of his or her shift. Factory employees must receive a one-hour meal break and non-factory workers must receive a 45-minute break.

Employers do not need to pay their employees for meal breaks. Although state law does require a meal break, it does not require employers to provide shorter breaks throughout the day. An employer can provide these breaks at his or her discretion.

Are Salaried Employees Required to Take Lunch Breaks?

New York’s lunch break laws apply to all public and private sector New York employers and their employees who work in the state. In addition, the New York Department of Labor maintains that Section 162 applies to every person working in blue collar, white collar, and managerial occupations covered by the state labor law. This means that employers must provide meal breaks to salaried employees as well as hourly workers.

What If I Don’t Get a Chance to Take a Break?

Most New York employees must take their lunch breaks and cannot opt. However, there are certain situations where an employee can eat without taking a break from their job duties. First, an employee can request a waiver for the meal period in exchange for additional breaks and meal periods that occur at other times.

For the state to recognize the waiver, the employee must meet the following criteria.

  • The employee’s industry has operational needs that makes strict compliance with the meal period laws impractical.
  • The employee obtained the waiver openly and knowingly through good faith negotiations. The employer cannot coerce the employee into obtaining it.
  • The employee received a desirable benefit through negotiations in exchange for the waiver.

There are also special considerations to people who work alone. If only one person is on duty, he or she can eat while working. If there is only one employee working in a specific occupation, he or she can also waive her lunch break. The employer must provide an uninterrupted meal period if the employee requests one, even if there is only one employee on duty.

If you are a New York employee and you do not receive your required meal breaks, you may have a claim for a wage and hour violation. Contact a Syracuse wage and hour attorney to discuss your legal options.