Employees in Colorado who are starting a new job, or even those who have been at a job for a while, may question whether they are receiving the amount of break or lunch time they have a right to under the law. Likewise, employers may have questions about the amount of break periods they must provide to employees.
Colorado laws pertaining to break or rest periods in the workplace are governed by the Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards Order. This order contains various requirements surrounding lunch and break periods during work shifts.
Lunch or meal periods
Colorado employers are required to provide employees with a break period of at least 30 minutes for every 5 hours of work. This is commonly an employee’s lunch or meal period.
This break period must not be within one hour of the start of a shift or one hour before the end of a shift. To properly qualify as a lunch or meal period, the 30-minute period must be uninterrupted and completely free of any work-related activities or duties.
If something work-related unexpectedly interrupts an employee’s lunch or meal period, the employee is legally allowed to eat or finish their meal while on work time. The employee must also remain fully compensated for the 30-minute meal period, regardless of where they ate their meal.
In terms of smaller break periods, employers must provide employees with a 10-minute break for every 4 hours of work. This means employees are allowed 2 breaks of 10 minutes in length in a typical 8-hour workday, along with their 30-minute lunch or meal period.
This rule applies outside a traditional 8-hour shift, as well. For example, if an employee works more than 2 hours but less than 6, they must have a 10-minute break. If their hours increase to over 6 and up to 10, two 10-minute meal periods are required.
Although not strictly required, employers should try to schedule the 10-minute break periods towards the middle of shifts. Employees are not required to leave the workplace premises during these 10-minute breaks, although they may do so if they wish.
Laws surrounding break and lunch periods can be complex and both employers and employees may have questions. Getting advice from a trusted legal professional can be helpful.