Massachusetts Break Laws

April 15th 2024

In Massachusetts, like many other states across the US, employees are entitled to meal breaks, which are crucial for maintaining a productive and healthy work environment. Even though breaks might seem like small interruptions, they play a significant role in ensuring employee well-being and productivity.

The Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division is responsible for ensuring these regulations, ensuring that employers adhere to them. This guide aims to provide information about Massachusetts break laws, helping employers and employees understand their rights and obligations.

This article covers:

Meal Breaks in Massachusetts

Under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 149 Section 100, employees working more than six hours are entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes. Generally, a bona fide meal break should be unpaid as employees are completely relieved of all job duties and permitted to exit the workplace.

However, if employees need to work throughout the intended meal period due to the nature of their work or the number of employees available within the workplace, in that case, employers must compensate them for their meal breaks.

Rest Breaks in Massachusetts

Massachusetts state law does not mandate employers to provide rest breaks to their employees. However, employers can offer rest breaks at their discretion. Under federal law, if employers provide short breaks to their employees (lasting 5 to 20 minutes), the break time must be considered as worked hours and must be compensated.

Breastfeeding Breaks in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, employers with six or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations for breastfeeding mothers under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, effective from April 1, 2018. This includes break time and a private space (other than a bathroom) for expressing breast milk. The state’s support for breastfeeding in the workplace aligns with federal requirements set by the FLSA’s PUMP Act.

Break Obligations for Minors in Massachusetts

Massachusetts does not have specific state laws for minors’ meals and rest breaks beyond the general meal break requirements.

The state limits working hours and job types for workers under 18, requiring Youth Employment Permits for all such workers.

Further, in Massachusetts, children under 14 are generally not permitted to work, with few exceptions.

Meal Break Exceptions in Massachusetts

Meal break laws in Massachusetts generally apply to most employees; however, there are exceptions.

The law specifically excludes certain types of work environments from its meal period regulations. These include ironworks, glassworks, printworks, paper mills, letterpress establishments, and bleaching or dyeing works.

The Massachusetts Labor Commissioner has the authority to exempt certain workshops or mechanical establishments from this law, particularly when continuous operations or unique situations necessitate it. This includes cases where there’s an existing union agreement.

Employees working in these fields may not be entitled to the meal breaks typically required for other types of workers under state law.

Rest Day Obligations in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, employees are entitled to a day off after six consecutive workdays, typically on a Sunday. This day off should span the entire day, from 8:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the afternoon. However, certain businesses are exempt from this requirement and can operate on Sundays and some legal holidays. In such cases, Massachusetts employers must compensate employees working on Sundays and holidays at a rate of 1.5 times their regular hourly wage.

For more details about overtime compensation, you can read our Massachusetts Overtime Laws.

Penalties for Employers in Massachusetts Violating Break Laws

Employers in Massachusetts are subject to fines and legal consequences for not adhering to meal break laws.

Violations can lead to a $300-$600 fine per incident.

Additionally, not compensating employees for work during these breaks could result in civil liability under the Massachusetts Wage Act, potentially leading to lawsuits, recovery of unpaid wages, attorney fees, and triple damages.

Learn more about Massachusetts Labor Laws through our detailed guide.

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.