Do I have to give employees meal and break periods? How can I do that in an environment where we see patients and need to be available? Why can’t I just pay the employee for the time instead of giving the meal or break period? We get asked these questions all the time. The rules regarding meal and break periods are very clear. In Oregon employers are required to give non-exempt employees meal and break periods.
If an employee works more than six hours they are given a 30 minute meal period in which they are relieved of all duties. In order to not provide a meal period you must be able to prove that one the following circumstances exist:
- Emergency or unanticipated circumstances prevented the full meal period only rarely or temporarily;
- Industry custom or practice calls for a shorter meal period (but not less than 20 minutes) in which the employee is relieved of all duties;
- The employer would suffer undue hardship if required to provide an uninterrupted 30 minute meal period.
Undue hardship is established by proving that the employer would suffer “significant difficulty or expense in relation to size, financial resources, nature or structure of employer’s business.” If undue hardship applies, the employer still has to provide the employee with time to eat a meal and rest, and the employee must be paid for the time.
Employer paid rest periods of not less than 10 minutes are required for every four hours or major portion thereof (two hours and one minute through four hours) worked in one work period. This time is separate from meal periods. An employer is not required to provide a rest period if all of the conditions below are met:
- The employee is 18 years of age or older;
- The employee works less than five hours in any period of 16 continuous hours;
- The employee is working along;
- The employee is employed in a retail or service establishment.
- The employee is allowed to leave the work station when needed to use restroom facilities.
As the employer you are required to ensure that all employees are getting their meal and break periods. Please contact our office if you have any questions.