New York State Break Laws

January 8th 2024

Regulations concerning breaks are vital for promoting a favorable work atmosphere, enhancing productivity, and safeguarding the rights of employees.

In New York, specific laws define the entitlements of workers and the responsibility of employers in providing sufficient breaks while complying with legal obligations.

This article seeks to provide a comprehensive summary of New York’s break laws, encompassing the guidelines governing meal breaks, rest breaks, breastfeeding breaks, and other pertinent provisions.

This article covers:

Break and Rest Period in New York

Although Labor Law in New York does not mandate that employers provide short rest periods, however, if such breaks are given or taken by employees, they must be considered as working time and therefore be paid. 

The New York Department of Labor adheres to US Federal Regulation 29 CFR §785.18, which acknowledges that brief rest periods ranging from 5 to 20 minutes are commonly observed in various industries. 

These short breaks enhance employee efficiency and are typically compensated as part of working hours. It is crucial to account for them as hours worked. 

Importantly, the compensable time for rest periods cannot be offset against other forms of working time, such as compensable waiting time or on-call time. 

Unauthorized extensions of authorized work breaks are not required to be counted as hours worked if the employer has clearly and explicitly communicated to the employee the following:

  • The authorized break must only last for a specific duration.
  • Any extension of the break violates the employer’s policies.
  • Any extension of the break will result in disciplinary action.

Meal Break Period Laws in New York

According to state law, both public and private employees in New York are entitled to meal breaks. These breaks are categorized based on the occupation of the employee, as outlined in Section 162 of New York labor law, and can be divided according to three groups:

  • Factory Workers – In New York, factory workers working the first-morning shift are granted a 60-minute meal break, which must be taken between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. However, the break must occur midway through the shift if their shift begins between 1:00 p.m., and 6:00 a.m., but only if the employee has worked for at least 6 hours. 
  • Non-factory Workers – Non-factory workers have similar regulations as factory workers, although the duration of their meal breaks differs. For those on the first-morning shift, a 30-minute lunch break is provided, while their breaks that occur midway through the shift must last 45 minutes.
  • All Employees (including both factory and non-factory workers) – All New York workers have the right to an extra 20-minute break between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. if their workday starts before 11:00 a.m. and extends after 7:00 p.m.

Meal Break Duration Reduction in New York

New York employers, in exceptional circumstances, can request a reduction in the length of the meal break, which may be granted by the Commissioner of Labor and Industry

This is typically done in cases of undue hardship or other special circumstances.

Pay for Meal Break in New York

Employees are not entitled to compensation for meal periods in New York that meet the statutory requirements, as they are not considered “hours worked.”

However, if an employee is required to work through a meal period due to single-employee shift requirements, the employer must compensate the employee for that meal period.

“Brown Bag Lunches” in New York State

Brown bag lunches refer to employees eating their lunch while participating in a presentation or listening to a speaker. These lunches can cover work-related or non-work-related topics such as health and wellness or personal finances, including retirement. To ensure compliance, employees must be granted an uninterrupted meal period during which they are free to leave their work area(s) and engage in other activities.

If employers require their employees to attend working or brown bag lunches, typically focusing on work-related topics, these lunches cannot be considered as a designated meal period and must be counted as time worked.

However, if employees voluntarily choose to participate in such lunches on topics of their interest, they are considered to be taking a lawful meal period under the law.

Exchange of Meal Break Periods for Early Departure from Work in New York

Employees who wish to forgo their lunch breaks in order to leave work at an earlier time can only waive their rights under Section 162 of the New York State Labor Law if they meet certain waiver requirements set by New York courts. 

However, the option of leaving work early does not fulfill the necessary criteria for a sufficient employee benefit and as such it meets only a third of the court-mandated requirements, as it simply replaces time off during the workday with time off at the end of the workday. 

This does not imply that an employer and employee cannot reach an agreement where the employee works through a meal period in exchange for the ability to leave work early occasionally, based on the employee’s needs.

However, such an arrangement cannot be agreed upon as a long-term option or regular basis.

Breastfeeding Breaks in New York

New York State Labor Law Section 206-C prohibits employers from engaging in discriminatory practices against lactating and breastfeeding mothers based on their choice to breastfeed their infants or express milk using a breast pump while at work. 

Special accommodations must be provided by employers to meet the needs of these mothers, which may include a reasonable amount of time for a break, whether paid or unpaid.

Mothers returning to work are entitled to pump milk for a duration of up to three years after giving birth, an employers are required to provide a designated private space, excluding bathroom stalls, for this purpose. 

In cases where job requirements necessitate it, employers or employees may seek a modified break schedule from the Commissioner.

If you want to know more about the entitlements of employees in Maryland, you can read our guides on your rights as a salaried employee in New York, and your rights as an hourly employee in New York.

Meal and Break Period Regulations for Minors in New York

Employers must establish a flexible schedule for minors in their employ, incorporating fixed shifts and designated meal breaks.

While New York does not have specific regulations regarding breaks for minors, state law stipulates that all employees, regardless of age, are entitled to a 30-minute break.

Rest Day Laws in New York

In New York State, specific employees are legally required to have a complete 24-hour day of rest within each calendar week, as outlined by the “day of rest” regulation. 

Employers have the option to seek an exemption from this requirement, but approval will only be granted if certain conditions are met and the application is accepted.

Break Obligations for Employees with Disabilities in New York

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the New York State Human Rights Law, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, employers with fifteen (15) or more employees are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees with known physical or mental disabilities, unless it can be shown that such accommodations would cause an undue hardship on the business operations.

Ways employers can provide reasonable accommodations include but are not limited to modifying work schedules to accommodate medical appointments or treatments, job restructuring to accommodate the needs of disabled individuals, and making existing facilities accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Learn more about New York Labor Laws through our detailed guide.

Important Cautionary Note

When making this guide we have tried to make it accurate but we do not give any guarantee that the information provided is correct or up-to-date. We therefore strongly advise you seek advice from qualified professionals before acting on any information provided in this guide. We do not accept any liability for any damages or risks incurred for use of this guide.