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Colorado Break Laws: A Must-Read Guide for Employers

Everything you need to know about Colorado break laws.
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When it comes to meal and rest break laws, Colorado is known as one of the most employee-friendly states in the US, similar to California, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. 

US Federal law does not require meal or rest breaks, leaving it up to states to set their own regulations. Many states, like Florida, haven't done much to offer higher protection for employee rights. 

When compared to them, Colorado's break laws are far more generous. 

If you're running a business in Colorado, you must understand the rules and your rights and responsibilities under these laws to stay compliant.

That's why we have compiled this comprehensive and user-friendly guide explaining everything you need to know about Colorado break laws.

What Is the Break Law in Colorado?

Colorado labor laws require employers to grant workers paid rest and "bona fide" meal break periods during a workday.

These regulations apply to employees and employers covered by the Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards Order, also known as the "COMPS Order #38." The same rules apply to minor employees.

PRO TIP: COMPS Order #38 covers all Colorado employees working for the state public sector and private employers unless they're outlined explicitly as the exemption by the Order, such as certain administrative and professional employees, salaried executives or supervisors, and outside salespersons , etc. You can learn more about these exemptions in Rule 2. of this document.

Following the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, employers must ensure that meal and rest breaks are available, keep daily records of all time worked by each employee, and provide employees pay statements that include total hours worked in the pay period. 

"Time worked" includes all rest period time and meal period time if an employee works through meal period time. 

So it's considered a good practice for employers to keep detailed records of all work hours, including breaks.

timeero timesheet admin view
Timeero lets you keep accurate records of employees time, breaks and mileage.

This way, they can ensure compliance with all the relevant laws, such as FLSA and Colorado labor laws, accurately calculate labor costs, and have proper records in case of disputes or audits.

See who’s working and who’s taking breaks in real time.

reliable time-tracking tool, such as Timeero, benefits Colorado employers and employees in various ways. 

Besides keeping track of employees' working hours and overtime, it also allows for easy and accurate break tracking, ensuring staff is well-rested and companies are on the right side of the law.

Meal Breaks in Colorado

Following the Colorado lunch break laws, employers must provide a 30-minute meal break for shifts that exceed five consecutive hours of work.

As long as an employee has an uninterrupted duty-free break, meal periods are unpaid. This means the employee must be relieved of all work-related duties during the 30-minute break and can't be required to wait around for work that might pop up. Such breaks are often referred to as "bona fide meal breaks."

Still, if the nature of the job doesn't let the employees be relieved of work duties during a lunch break, employers may provide a fully paid on-duty meal period. 

During an on-duty meal period, employees shall be able to fully consume a meal of choice on the job without losing any time or compensation for this work period.

According to the Raven Corp, DLSS Case Hearing Officer Decision from 2018, Colorado employees can also leave the premises during unpaid meal breaks. 

PRO TIP: Even though Colorado Wage Act's meal period provisions do not explicitly state this, the phrases "uninterrupted," "duty-free," "completely relieved of all duties," and "permitted to pursue personal activities" have plain and ordinary meanings implying that an employee should be free to leave the job site or be compensated for time.

Compared to California Breaks Law, which is the most stringent, Colorado doesn't set strict requirements when meal breaks can be used, as long as they don't occur during the first and the last working hours.

Moreover, unlike California's provision of a meal premium (an additional hour of pay for a skipped or non-compliant meal or rest break), Colorado's meal break penalty is not mentioned. 

If an employee skips their break or uses it non-compliantly, the employer must compensate all their unpaid break time.

Meal Deductions

Colorado break laws also include a provision that allows employers to provide meals and deduct the cost from employees' wages. Still, there are strict rules to ensure that this is done fairly and with the employee's consent.

Here's a breakdown of the requirements:

  • Reasonable cost or fair market value of meals. The employer can count the cost of the meal towards the employee's minimum hourly wage. The cost should be either what the employer reasonably spent to provide the meal or what the meal would cost in a fair market (whichever is less).
  • No profits to the employer. The employer cannot make a profit from the meal. The employee's wage for the meal cannot be more than what the meal costs the employer.
  • Voluntary and uncoerced acceptance. The employee must voluntarily agree to receive and pay for the meal. The employer cannot force the employee to accept and pay for the meal.

Rest Breaks in Colorado

According to state law, a 10-minute paid rest break is required for every four hours of work time or major fractions thereof.

So, here is how it goes, depending on how many hour periods during a workday an employee works:

colorado rest breaks

Under Colorado break law, employers' failure to authorize and permit a paid 10-minute rest period is a failure to pay 10 minutes of wages at the employee's agreed-upon regular pay rate or legally required pay rate (whichever is higher).

It can also result in an employer's obligation to compensate employees at the overtime rate of pay.

Penalties for Non-Compliance: No Claim Too Small

If you're an employer in the state of Colorado and if your employees are paid less than what they've earned, they have a strong legal basis for claiming the full compensation. 

In general, this also stands for skipped or non-compliant breaks.

Employees can recover their wages through a civil action or file a complaint through the Division of Labor Standards and Statistics administrative procedure.

According to the law, no amount is too minimal for recovery, so there is no minimum size of a wage claim.

Any person may file a written complaint with the Division alleging a COMPS Order violation within two years. However, if it's found to be a willful violation, the timeframe extends to three years

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment then opens a thorough investigation to enforce compliance with state minimum wage obligations and other provisions.

So, if you fail to comply with the Colorado Minimum Wage and break laws, be prepared to handle:

  • Unpaid wages. Following the wage laws. Colorado employees who are denied proper meal time and rest breaks are entitled to be paid for the time they should have been on break. This includes the 10-minute rest breaks for every four hours of work and the 30-minute meal break for shifts over five hours.
  • Fines. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) can impose penalties on employers who violate the meal and rest break laws. The fine depends on the severity of the violation and the number of employees affected.
  • Lawsuits. Employees can also file lawsuits against their employers for failing to provide proper meal and rest breaks. If successful, they may be awarded damages for unpaid wages, emotional distress, and other losses.

Staying informed about the Colorado Wage Act and the requirements of the COMPS Order will help you avoid these issues and ensure that your employees are compensated fairly, maintaining a good standing with both your workforce and the law.

Colorado Break Laws Legal Practice

There are several important legal cases employers should be aware of.

In GARITANO v. CHICK-FIL-A, INC., a class action lawsuit is filed against Chick-fil-A, claiming that the company violated Colorado's labor laws by failing to provide their hourly workers proper meal and rest breaks. The lawsuit alleges that Chick-fil-A did not pay employees for 10-minute breaks, which should have been paid at their regular rate or, depending on the hours worked, their overtime rate.

Furthermore, according to the claim, employees either missed their meal breaks or had their wages improperly deducted for breaks that did not comply with the law. This entitles workers to additional pay for each violation.

The lawsuit seeks to represent all Chick-fil-A hourly employees in Colorado affected within the statute of limitations period, arguing that the company had no legal basis for these alleged practices. According to some Chick-fil-A calculations, the sum in controversy may exceed $5 million.

And just recently, a nurse sued a rehabilitation center in Colorado for automatically deducting 30-minute meal breaks from her and other employees' wages, even though these breaks were routinely interrupted to care for patients.  

How Can Timeero Help Me Stay Compliant with Colorado Break Laws?

Timeero is an excellent GPS time and mileage tracking tool with a foolproof break tracking feature.

The software is tailored to streamline everyday operations and workflows and ease the pains of inaccuracy, non-compliance, improper and untimely compensation, and many others.

But how can this tool help you comply with California lunch break laws? 


Enforce Employee Breaks Policy

Timeero lets you create and enforce your company's workplace meals and rest breaks rules. You can create as many breaks as you like, set their duration, and whether they're compensated.

timeero break settings
With Timeero, you can enforce your company's break policy.

Ensure your breaks are aligned with your company's employee breaks policy so that your employees know which breaks they can use and under which conditions.

You can assign your employees to different policies if your staff is dispersed. For example, suppose you have employees working in California. In that case, our California Breaks Tracker will ensure they always comply with the legislature.

Track and Record Breaks Easily

As we've seen from the case above, auto-deduction practices regarding employee breaks can cause trouble. And if we're to learn from the experience in the other states, time rounding meal breaks can become a deal breaker as well.

timeero mobile traking
Employees can log their breaks effortlessly.

Once you've assigned the breaks, your employees can track and record their breaks with a single click and view their time cards using their Timeero mobile app. 

Timeero time and mileage view
Easily see who is using their breaks.

On the other hand, you can have first-hand insight into whether your employees are using their breaks and how, even if they are at multiple sites or on the field. 

You will be the first to know if there are any potential problems. This lets you talk to your employees on time and act according to your policy. 

Accurate break tracking will also ensure you always have precise data to pay your employees adequately and keep your business compliant.

Remind Your Employees to Use Their Breaks

As an employer in Colorado, you should display a COMPS Order #38 Poster at the workplace where all employees can easily see it. Some of your employees will still forget to use their breaks.

Timeero provides a way for you to remind them of their rights, maximizing the odds they will use meal and rest periods in a compliant manner.

timeero scheduing
Use Timeero to schedule mandated breaks and remind your employees to take them.

You can use the scheduling tool to add breaks to employees' shifts and have notifications about their upcoming breaks delivered 10 minutes before they are entitled to use them.

meal break schedule
Your employees will receive notifications 10 minutes before their breaks.

Of course, these notifications are best to serve as a reminder only. Employees will still use their time clock to log their breaks. This will ensure their location is not tracked during their breaks, respecting their privacy.

Generate Break Reports 

Now that you're more aware of the problems non-compliant breaks may bring, you would like to audit compliance regularly.

For a more detailed insight into how your employees are using breaks, you can easily generate reports. This will help you in the case of an investigation or potential lawsuit.

timeero break reports
Easily generate break reports.

You can also use this data to analyze employee productivity, promote workplace accountability, and prevent overbilling.

Besides tracking employees' breaks, Timeero can help you keep up with all other timekeeping requirements, including tracking employee paid sick leave and time off. Read our in-depth Timeero review to learn about its other features and benefits.

Employee Breaks Policy: Bulletproof Your Business

Besides using a reliable time and break tracking tool, the Employee Breaks Policy is essential for protecting your employees and your company.  

Remember that creating an employee break policy is not just about what works for your company culture; it's also about compliance with relevant labor laws.

So, if you're running a business in Colorado, following the broader regulations, such as Colorado's meal break laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and other federal mandates, is non-negotiable.

For example, whether your current workforce includes nursing employees or not, your policy should accommodate nursing mothers, as both the federal law and the Colorado Nursing Mothers Act require. 

Your policy should provide these employees reasonable break times to express breast milk and a private space that is not a bathroom, showcasing your company's dedication to supporting workers' needs. This requirement is valid for up to two years after the child's birth.

An effective break policy isn't just about legal boxes checked—it's about creating a workspace that respects and cares for the well-being of your team members. You can check out our article on developing one or just download a free template and adjust it to your needs.

Once you have it in writing, you must put it in the employee handbook and have all your employees familiarize themselves and sign it. Use every chance you get to educate and train your employees to use their breaks and use them in a compliant manner.

Pair this with a time-tracking tool that can handle the complexities of various labor laws, and you have a recipe for a compliant, productive, and satisfied workforce.

Disclaimer: The Timeero Team does our best to provide up-to-date and accurate information. However, we're not a law firm, and we're not providing legal advice. The article serves informational purposes only. When considering compliance with labor, employment laws, and other relevant regulations, always seek the advice of a professional legal expert.

California Lunch Break Laws: FAQ

Are breaks mandatory at work in Colorado? 

Meal and rest breaks are mandatory in Colorado for employers covered by COMPS Order #38. To sum up, an employee working more than five hours daily has a right to an unpaid, uninterrupted 30-minute meal break. A rest break is granted to employees for every four hours worked, or the major fraction of this period. You can find more details in the text above.

How many breaks do you get in an 8-hour shift in Colorado?

If employees are covered by COMPS Order #38, they have a right to a 30-minute meal period and two rest breaks.

Does Colorado require 15-minute breaks?

No. Colorado state law does not mention or require 15-minute breaks.

What are the consequences of not taking a break in Colorado?

Employers may face hefty fines and lawsuits if they fail to give their employees the required breaks. Using a time and break tracking system, such as Timeero, can help Colorado employers avoid harmful consequences and have their employees well-rested.

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