Although some states, like California and New York, have strict requirements for employers to provide meal and rest breaks, Texas is not one of them.
Under Texas law, there is no requirement for an employer to provide a meal period or break to its employees. Instead, employers must adhere to the requirements of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which also does not mandate a meal or rest break. Thus, in Texas, an employee does not have a legal right to breaks.
Many employers, however, voluntarily offer such breaks in recognition that it is important for their employees’ health and productivity to be given time to eat or rest. If an employer chooses to offer breaks, then it is required to follow the federal rules.
Here is a summary of what the law requires:
Meal Breaks in Texas
Employers are not required to provide workers with any breaks, with the exception of breastfeeding mothers, who are entitled to take a 30-minute unpaid lunch break during the first year following the birth of their child. Note that the law only applies to non-exempt employees (i.e., those who are entitled to overtime pay for overtime work), and it exempts employers with fewer than 50 employees if it would be an undue hardship for the business to provide such breaks.
If an employer offers a meal break as part of its company policy, then it must adhere to federal requirements.
Federal law requires that employees be paid for hours worked. If the employer offers a meal break of at least 30 minutes during which the employee is relieved of all job duties, then the employer does not have to compensate the employee during the meal break. However, if the employee is required to work through the designated “meal break” (such as a receptionist who must still answer the phone during lunch), then the employee must be paid.
Meal breaks must not be provided in a discriminatory manner. In other words, an employer cannot deny a meal break to a specific employee based on sex, race, disability, national origin, religion, age, or race.
The most common pitfall for employers is allowing some work to be performed during a meal break, which renders the break compensable. To avoid this, the employer may prohibit any kind of work during a meal break and/or may require employees to leave their workstations during the allotted meal breaks.
Rest Breaks in Texas
Neither federal nor state law requires that Texas employers offer rest breaks. However, many employers do offer rest breaks as a matter of custom or policy. If the employer elects to provide a rest break, then federal law requires that employees be paid during short breaks of up to 20 minutes.
Penalties for Violating FLSA Meal and Rest Break Requirements
Employers can refuse to allow breaks. However, if an employer provides a rest break or requires that work be performed during a designated meal break, then employees must be paid for the break as if it were part of the workday. If not, then employees may file a wage and hour violation complaint to seek compensation for denied wages.
Where to Get More Information About Texas Labor Laws
For additional information about employer obligations under Texas labor laws, including posting requirements for wage and hour and other labor laws, check out our site dedicated to Texas labor law posting requirements.