Should my employer be giving me a meal break during work?

New York employers are expected to know and comply with wage and hour laws that dictate how and when their employees should be compensated. These rules are strictly enforced, but there are some parties that do not follow them and hope they can get away by taking advantage of employees who are not as familiar with wage and hour laws. 

For instance, an employer may tell workers they do not have a right to any breaks for meals or other purposes during a shift. However, state and federal laws both address meal time and allow employees who work a certain number of hours to have breaks for meals.

The length of time that workers have for meals varies from 20 to 60 minutes, depending on the type of work, number of hours in a shift and any special permissions that may be given. 

In accordance with the New York State Labor Law, workers should have at least 30 minutes for a meal if they work at least a six-hour shift over the noonday period. Workers who continue working after 7 p.m. should also be given another 20-minute break for a nighttime meal if their shift started before 11 a.m.

Some workers in New York are given longer meal times, including factory and mercantile workers. Under some circumstances, shorter meal times may be authorized as well.

These meal times are required by law, but employers do not need to pay workers during this time, as long as the workers are not required to complete any work-related tasks during their meal. 

However, it should be noted that employers who choose to offer short 5-20 minute breaks throughout the day are expected to pay workers during those brief periods, according to federal laws.

While all this may make sense in theory, situations involving potential violations are typically much less straightforward. If you have questions about meal and break periods or if you feel as though you are not being properly compensated, it can be crucial to discuss the situation with an attorney to learn more about your rights and legal options.

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