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Oregon Break Laws: Complete Guide for Employers

Stay compliant and avoid costly penalties
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If you’re an employer in Oregon, having a firm grasp on the state’s break laws is essential to maintain a legally compliant and thriving workplace.

Our comprehensive guide will explore the key provisions of Oregon’s break laws. We'll cover topics including rest breaks, meal periods, special considerations, and potential penalties for non-compliance.

We'll also explore how time and break tracking tools like Timeero can help you align your business practices with legal requirements.

Disclaimer: This Guide is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. While we strive for accuracy, employment laws are complex and can vary depending on circumstances. Always consult with a qualified professional for advice on specific legal matters. 

Oregon Break Laws: Fundamentals

Unlike federal law, which does not mandate meal or rest breaks, Oregon state law sets a higher standard for employee well-being by mandating both rest breaks and meal periods.

This practice is in line with states like California, Washington, and Colorado, which also prioritize employee well-being and fair working conditions through state-level regulations.

These provisions ensure workers have the time to recharge and refuel during their shifts.

Oregon Rest Break Laws

Rest breaks are short, paid breaks designed to give employees a short relief from their duties.

Oregon law mandates that employers provide a paid rest break of at least 10 minutes for every four working hours within a single work period.

What Are the Specific Requirements for Rest Breaks?

  • Rest breaks should be taken as near as possible to the middle of each 4-hour work period.
  • Rest breaks must be paid, meaning employees should be compensated at their regular pay rate during these breaks.
  • During their rest break, employees must be relieved of all duties. They cannot be required to answer phones, monitor equipment, or perform other work-related tasks.
  • The rest break requirements apply to non-exempt employees, generally hourly workers.

Oregon Meal Period (Lunch Break) Laws

Meal periods, often called lunch breaks, are longer, unpaid breaks designed to allow employees time to eat and relax.

Oregon Lunch Break Laws: When Are Meal Periods Required?

Employees who work 6 hours or more in a workday are entitled to an unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes.

 Workers working 14 or more hours are entitled to a second 30-minute meal break.

For shifts of seven hours or less, the meal period must be taken after the second hour of work and completed before the fifth hour.

For shifts longer than seven hours, the meal period should be taken after the third hour of work and completed before the sixth hour.

What Are the Special Considerations for Meal Periods?

  • Meal periods are generally unpaid unless the employee must remain on-call or perform duties during the break. In such cases, the break must be paid.
  • Employees must be completely relieved of all duties during meal periods. They should not be required to remain at their workstation, answer phones, or perform other work-related tasks. If an employee works during their meal period, the break must be paid. 
  • Meal period requirements may be waived in certain circumstances, such as if the workday is less than 6 hours or if the employee is scheduled to work fewer than 3 consecutive hours.

Break Exemptions

There are a few limited exceptions to meal period requirements under these circumstances:

Undue Hardship

An employer can be exempt from providing a meal period if it imposes an undue hardship on business operations. In this context, undue hardship is defined as significant difficulty or expense regarding the business's size, resources, and structure. 

Industry Practice or Custom

An employer may provide a paid meal period of less than 30 minutes (but no less than 20) if it’s an established industry practice or custom. During this time, employees are relieved of all duties.

Unforeseeable Circumstances

Employers may be exempt if they fail to provide a meal period due to unforeseen events like equipment failures, natural disasters, or other rare and temporary circumstances.

Tipped Food and Beverage Servers

Under specific conditions, tipped employees can voluntarily waive their meal period. This waiver must be in writing, the employee must be at least 18 years of age and receive tips, and they must have a reasonable opportunity to eat during their shift.

A duty-free meal period must be provided if the employee works over an 8-hour shift.

oregon break laws overview

Oregon Break Laws and Collective Bargaining Agreements

The meal and rest period provisions can be changed by the terms of a collective bargaining agreement as long as it explicitly addresses these breaks.

What Are the Specific Break and Meal Period Requirements for Minors Working in Oregon?

Oregon requires minors working six or more hours to be given at least a 30-minute meal period. This meal period can be unpaid as long as the minor worker is completely relieved of all duties. 

Exceptions to meal period requirements do not apply to 14 and 15-year-old employees. 

Minor employees also receive a 15-minute break for every four hours worked. Rest periods are separate from the meal break. 

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Employers who fail to comply with Oregon break laws may face penalties of up to $1,000 per violation, as enforced by the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI).

Breastfeeding Breaks

Among other protections, Oregon law requires employers to provide reasonable rest periods for nursing employees in addition to standard breaks. These lactation breaks are only required until the child is 18 months old. 

To comply with this law, Oregon employers must provide a private location close to the employee's worksite that is shielded from view and intrusion, with access to an electrical outlet.

Oregon employers must also allow nursing employees to bring an insulated container or  cooler for breast milk storage. If on-site refrigerators are available, they must be made accessible for milk storage but cannot be the mandatory storage location.

PRO TIP: Restrooms or toilets do not qualify as appropriate locations for breastfeeding break periods.

Excessive Heat Breaks

In response to the increasing risk of heat-related illnesses, Oregon’s OSHA established new rules in 2022 to protect employees working under high heat index conditions. 

The rules apply to all workplaces where employees are exposed to 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher heat index levels.

Oregon employers must provide rest breaks for employees working in high heat. Employees must be completely free from work responsibilities during heat illness prevention rest breaks.

Heat illness prevention required breaks can overlap with mandatory meal or rest periods if the employee is relieved of all duties. 

Oregon’s OSHA offers three options for scheduling these rest breaks:

  1. Scheduled Breaks. Employers can schedule regular breaks based on the heat index and workload.
  2. Employee-Initiated Breaks. Employees can request breaks when they feel the need to cool down.
  3. Combination. Employers can use a combination of scheduled and employee-initiated breaks.

Employees who feel ill due to heat or air quality can use available sick leave. Non-first responders can also use sick leave if a public official declares the heat index or air quality at work or home to be hazardous to employee health.

Employers should also develop comprehensive heat illness prevention plans, provide training, ensure access to shade and water, monitor working conditions, and adjust employee workloads accordingly.

How to Stay Compliant with Oregon Break Laws

Non-compliance with Oregon's break laws can be a costly nightmare. We’re talking back wages, penalties, and even legal battles that could last for years. That’s why we're arming you with the best practices to avoid pitfalls and create a workplace where everyone gets the breaks they deserve.

PRO TIP: Are your employees skipping their breaks? Download and use our free meal break violation write-up template as part of encouraging policy adherence. 

1. Create a Crystal-Clear Employee Break Policy

Your first line of defense to remaining complaint is a well-defined employee break policy. This way, you will set clear expectations for your team and demonstrate your commitment to their well-being.

Your policy should cover:

  • Rest breaks, meal periods, and special considerations like breastfeeding and excessive heat breaks.
  • Guidelines for restroom breaks and any accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Specific details about how long breaks are, when they can be taken, and any expectations around scheduling or timekeeping.

Do you have trouble enforcing your meal policy? Learn more about drafting your employee meal break policy or download a free template and customize it to fit your business's unique needs. 

2. Keep Track of Breaks

Managing breaks doesn't have to be a headache. Timeero’s time-tracking platform is designed to support your break policies, ensure compliance with Oregon law, and foster a break-friendly work environment. 

Timeero lets you maintain accurate records of hours worked and breaks taken, while enforcing break policies and ensuring smooth break time management.

Here's how Timeero can help:

 Enforce Your Break Policy

timeero customize breaks

Timeero allows you to easily create break rules to fit your company’s policies. You can define each break type (rest, meal, lactation, heat), duration, and indicate whether it's paid or unpaid.

You can also schedule breaks in advance and have Timeero automatically remind employees when to take their well-deserved breaks.

 Empower Employees to Track Breaks

The Timeero mobile app makes it simple for employees to clock in and out of breaks with just a few taps. There is no more manual tracking or confusion.

timeero mobile time clock

Timeero does not track employee locations during breaks, respecting their privacy while they’re off the clock.

Proactive Break Management

You can easily integrate breaks into employee schedules so they know when they are allowed to step away and recharge.

timeero mobile scheduled breaks

Timeero sends notifications to employees a few minutes before their break starts, helping them plan their workflow and avoid missing out on their rest time.

Audit and Monitor Break Usage

timeero tracking breaks

Managers can easily monitor employee break usage through the Time and Mileage Dashboard and identify any inconsistencies or potential compliance issues early on.

Accurate Records for Compliance

timeero accurate break records

Timeero automatically tracks employee hours and breaks, providing accurate records that can be easily accessed and exported.

In the event of an audit or dispute, having detailed time and break records can be crucial for demonstrating compliance with Oregon break laws.

3. Regular Reviews & Updates

Remember to review your break policy regularly and ensure it is up to date with Oregon’s regulations. 

Things change, and you want to stay ahead of the game. Plus, open communication with your team about any changes can go a long way in building trust and maintaining a positive workplace culture.

Timeero: Your Partner in Oregon Break Laws Compliance

By partnering with Timeero and following these best practices, you can avoid legal headaches and create a workplace where your employees feel valued and respected. 

A well-rested and happy team, translates to increased productivity and overall business success.

Oregon Break Laws: FAQ

How often are employees entitled to rest breaks under Oregon labor laws? 

Employees must receive a ten-minute rest period for every 4 hours of work (or a major fraction thereof). These rest breaks are paid.

Are 15-minute breaks required by law in Oregon?

Oregon law requires 15-minute breaks for minor employees for every four hours worked or the major part.

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