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Pretty sure the federal law is 6 hours, but some states are even stricter. That's the trouble with getting into labor laws is how much they can vary state to state.


30 min UNPAID is optional @ 5hours, mandatory after six. Laws are fuzzy and variable regarding the latest possible time you can take it (ie, in MA where I'm originally from, you couldn't schedule someone's 30min in the last hour/ half hour of their shift).

And here's where that can get weird. Say you want the 30 min unpaid, and you're working 5 hours. Technically, the break scoots you under the mandatory 5 hours, which is why most places don't automatically schedule them (also, why lose 30 min on such a short shift? but I digress...).


FYI - Rather than guess about the federal law, I googled it. The first link that came up was the US Department of Labor at http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/workhours/breaks.htm. First sentence.... "Federal law does not require lunch or coffee breaks."

I'm not saying I agree with it, but wanted to clarify the rules since people tend to start guessing and stating "facts" without checking. However, not knowing what state you are in, there might possibly be other state labor laws that applied to this situation.


TravelPro here, Our problem wasn't just with the 5 hours bit, but with the fact that on a 10 hour shift I have to take a 1hr lunch. Going that late had me start closing procedures too late. With said store struggling, they push us to close as fast as possible so they don't have to pay you all the way to the end of your shift. So closing up the front starts early. 7 registers, one Return Monkey and one Cashier Monkey. Someone has to take customers, so one of us rings while the other closes tills. We start closing tills until only the ones we're on are left so, ideally, we can close only those two after the store closes and be out the door in 15 minutes.
I went to lunch so late that we couldn't close any before our doors closed.
This lunch fiasco got me into trouble with Banana Hammock. Who now dislikes me more, because not only did I inconvenience him, I made him have to stay "late" and wait for me. It was interesting trying to count all that money by myself in the dark. Oh yeah, he turned out the lights when he thought I should be done. Then came out and asked me why I wasn't. When I told him I could go faster if I could see, he told me that the light controls were back in the office, and he didn't feel like going back there when he should be off already. I finished and still clocked out 15 minutes before I was scheduled to be. You're welcome for shaving my own hours, BH.
What an awesome person. Great to work for.
Sorry for the rant, had to put my 5 cents in!


BH sounds like a real bastard. I can see why this company is going under with management like him.

Retail Psycho

I don't know what it's like in America but in Australia while you do have to have a break on a shift over 5 hours it doesn't mean that you HAVE to have your break dead on 5 hours. It just means that somewhere between hour 5 and hour 8 you have to have a break

Sadie The Cleaning Lady

The exception to the Aussie system is those who work at McHells. When I worked there, if you didn't clock out for your break by the start of hour 5, all the screens in store will flash and beep and say something along the lines of "CREW MEMBER [NAME], [AGE] YEARS OLD HAS WORKED 5 HOURS WITH NO BREAK AND IS NOW ON OVERTIME!"
Of course the managers would "fix this up" in the system afterwards (which is a whole other story).
The cleaning job I've just finished with has a pretty simple "As long as you've had a break for a shift of 5+ hours, it's all good."

National Paint Contractors Cape Town

This is actually a very sad story and I truly sympathize with you. You should slap that manager.


The FLSA or Fair Labor Standards Act is from 1938 and needs more updating than raising the minimum wage which Bush jr did. It's likely your state has more realistic rules about lunches and you ought to look them up. Though 6 hours is usually the standard maximum before a lunch break must be given.

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