What Employers Need to Know About Meal Periods and Rest Breaks Under New York Law

New York Meals & Breaks

New York labor laws include several important employee meal period and rest break requirements for employers to understand. Employers in New York who fail to comply with these rules subject themselves to liability, including penalties, under the state’s wage and hour laws.


Here is a summary of what New York law requires of employers when it comes to employee meals and rest breaks.


Meal Periods Under New York Law

New York has very specific requirements for unpaid meal periods for employees.


Hourly, nonexempt employees in New York who work more than 6 hours, when those 6 hours extend over the noonday meal period (between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.), are entitled to an unpaid meal break of 30 minutes.


Employees who start working before 11 a.m. and continue working past 7 p.m. are entitled to a second unpaid meal period of at least 20 minutes. This second meal period must occur between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m.


New York employees who work a shift lasting more than 6 hours that starts between 1 p.m. and 6 a.m. are entitled to a 45-minute meal period, to be scheduled midway between the start and end of their shift.


Employees who are the only person manning a shift or who are the only one in a specific occupation may be allowed to eat on the job.


Special rules apply to factory employees in New York. Factory employees who work more than 6 hours are entitled to a 60-minute meal period between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.; they are also entitled to a 60-minute meal period when their shift starts between 1 p.m. and 6 a.m.


Note that in some circumstances, the New York Department of Labor may allow an employer to offer employees shorter meal periods. This special permission must be in writing, and the employer must post it at the entrance to the workplace.


Rest Breaks Under New York Law

New York law does not require employers to give employees a rest break. However, for employers who opt to offer a rest break, it must be paid (up to 20 minutes), and it counts toward overtime requirements under federal law. A rest break may include a bathroom break, smoke break, or other brief time away from work, such as to make a phone call or get a cup of coffee or water.


Penalties for Missing Meal Periods

Employers who fail to give employees their required meal periods under New York law must compensate employees for their time worked. If the time adds up to more than 40 hours in a week, the employee is entitled to overtime pay.


Where to Get More Information About New York Labor Laws

For additional information about employer obligations under New York labor laws, including posting requirements for wage and hour and other employment laws, check out our site dedicated to New York labor law posting requirements.