According to Florida break laws, employers aren’t required to offer a meal or rest breaks, either paid or unpaid, to their employees. In other words, employers can decide whether or not their employees will have some time off during their work hours for lunch or rest.
Federal laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), also don’t mandate meal periods or rest breaks for employees.
This means that an adult worker in Florida isn’t entitled to get some time off for lunch while you’re at work.
Here are the main things you should know about Florida break laws, including some tips on the best practices you should follow.
Unlike some other states like California or New York, where meal or rest breaks for employees are mandatory, Florida break laws are more favorable to employers.
Since there are no designated Florida lunch break laws, federal laws apply.
The FLSA doesn’t mandate meal breaks for adult employees in Florida. So, neither federal nor state laws are workers eligible to get some time off for lunch.
However, there’s a notable exception that should be mentioned.
Employees under 18 are legally entitled to an uninterrupted 30-minute meal break every four hours of work.
Despite not having to offer a meal break to their employees, many companies decide to do so. These employers are very well aware that their companies will benefit from creating a positive workplace environment.
A recent study has shown that workers who take regular lunch breaks report higher engagement at work, as well as increased job satisfaction and the likelihood that they will recommend working for their company to others.
When employers decide to offer a lunch break and include this in their company policy, it must comply with federal laws.
When it comes to rest breaks, neither federal nor Florida break laws stipulate that employers should offer their employees some time off during the workday to rest and replenish.
Again, just like that’s the case with meal breaks, most employers decide to provide this perk to their workforce to boost their morale and productivity. Since working smarter, not harder, has become a widely accepted concept, many companies are beginning to understand the importance of restorative rest on employees’ creativity and focus.
However, as Florida break laws don’t mandate breaks, they accordingly don’t specify the number and the length of rest breaks during a regular workday. Therefore, it’s something that’s part of a company policy or internal agreement.
Even though no state law requires businesses to provide break periods to their employees, some exemptions are under the FLSA.
According to the FLSA, employers are required to provide breaks to the following categories of employees:
Under federal law, nursing mothers should be given reasonable rest breaks to express breast milk whenever they need to until their baby is up to a year old.
Employers must also provide a convenient place other than a bathroom where the nursing mother will be protected from view and intrusion by co-workers and the public.
This regulation applies only to non-exempt employees, those who qualify for the FLSA overtime pay requirements. Also, companies with fewer than 50 employees that can offer evidence that providing such breaks would present an “undue hardship” will be exempt from following this provision.
Nursing breaks do not have to be paid under the FLSA. However, suppose the employer offers paid breaks. In that case, a nursing mother should be compensated the same way as other employees.
The American Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn’t specifically mandate breaks. Still, it requires employers to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations to help them perform their job properly.
Examples in which a reasonable accommodation can be interpreted as the need for a necessary break include:
As this isn’t a complete list of conditions under which employees with disabilities qualify for breaks, so make sure to check the regulations and avoid potential lawsuits.
Although under Florida break laws, employers are required to offer neither meal nor rest breaks, when they do so at their discretion, federal rules have to be followed regarding compensation.
The FLSA explicitly says that employees must be paid for hours worked, and this provision includes designated breaks. So let’s say an employee is allowed to take a break, but they have to work through their lunch. This is usually the case for receptionists who have to take calls or greet visitors even during their meal breaks.
Although this is considered to be a meal break by the employer, since the employee works and can’t leave their workstation, they are entitled to fair compensation.
On the other hand, if an employee is offered a meal break of at least 30 minutes, during which they are relieved of all duties, this is considered a bona fide meal break and doesn’t have to be paid.
Are 15 minutes breaks required by law in Florida?
We’ve already established that breaks aren’t required in Florida regardless of their length.
But, in case an employee offers short breaks throughout the workday, the FLSA requires those breaks to be paid.
To be precise, the federal law perceives breaks that last between five and 20 minutes part of the workday. Therefore, employees must be paid when they’re allowed to take such breaks.
As for the number of breaks, neither Florida break laws nor the FLSA specifies this. Still, employers usually create a policy and define the provisions themselves.
Generally speaking, many companies offer one unpaid 30-lunch break during an 8-hour shift and a paid 15-minute rest break after every 4 hours of work.
Even though Florida break laws don’t impose any rules regarding breaks, it’s essential to outline a clear company policy if you choose to allow your employees to have a meal or rest while at work.
This way, you’ll prevent any potential confusion, misunderstandings, or deliberate attempts to take advantage of this rule.
Having such a policy in place will ensure employees know what they’re entitled to while allowing you to enforce your break rules consistently and avoid potential disputes.
Here are some factors you should bear in mind when drafting your break policy:
Since a couple of minutes can make a big difference and decide whether a break can be classified as paid or unpaid, it’s essential to implement time tracking software.
With such a tool, you’ll be able to hold your employees accountable, ensure they’re following company break policies, and protect yourself from a potential lawsuit.
Finally, a break policy has to contain a provision against discrimination. In other words, no employee should be denied a break based on sex, race, age, religion, disability, or any other factor.
In addition to understanding Florida break laws, employers should familiarize themselves with Florida wage and overtime laws.
So, how many hours can an employee legally work in a day in Florida?
Unlike some other states, Florida doesn’t determine the limit of overtime hours in a day.
However, non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay for every hour they work over 40 in a single week.
Read our blog on Florida overtime law to learn more about what jobs qualify as non-exempt and how much is Florida overtime wage.
Another topic closely related to Florida break laws we should discuss concerns employee pay during waiting, sleeping, and travel times.
The time during which employees are waiting to complete an assignment may or may not qualify as paid, depending on the circumstances.
If an employee is waiting at their workplace to be called upon but can do something that’s not work-related is treated as work time and has to be paid. But, if an employee is on call but has the freedom to do what they choose and has a lot of time to respond and complete their task, then this isn’t considered work time and won’t be paid.
If an employee is on call for less than 24 hours, they’re allowed to sleep and engage in activities that aren’t related to work; they are considered working all that time and should be paid accordingly.
On the other hand, an employee who’s on duty for 24 or more hours can agree with their employer to deduct from work hours sleeping time that lasts no more than 8 hours, and that won’t be paid. This scenario is possible only if the employer provides adequate and properly furnished sleeping quarters and if the employee can get at least 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Commuting to and from work isn’t considered work time and as such, won’t be compensated.
However, suppose an employee who regularly commutes to and from work has an assignment in another city. In that case, they will be paid the portion of the time they spend traveling to and returning from that other city. Their regular commute to the workplace may or may not be paid in this case.
Traveling that’s an integral part of an employee’s job is work time and is, therefore, paid.
As you can see, there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Florida break laws. Even though employers aren’t legally bound to offer breaks to employees, numerous factors have to be considered.
Managing a happy and productive workforce requires understanding their needs, so make sure to learn their legal rights and responsibilities as that will save you from potential issues and lawsuits.