Does My Washington Employer Have to Give Me Breaks From Work?

Your entitlement to meal and rest breaks depends on state law.
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Am I Entitled to Paid Sick Leave, Family Leave, or Vacation Time in Washington?

Last Reviewed: Tue, Jun 23, 2020

Washington is one of a handful of states that require employers to provide paid rest breaks to employees. 

Although many employees get meal and rest breaks during the workday, these breaks aren’t legally required everywhere. Federal law doesn’t require employers to give employees time off to eat or rest during their shifts. Employees are entitled to these breaks only if their state requires it.  

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t require employers to give breaks, but it does regulate when employers have to pay for breaks they choose to give. 

Should Your Breaks Be Paid?

The FLSA requires employers to pay employees for all hours worked, including time the employer may classify as a “break.” An employer does not have to pay for longer meal breaks during which the employee is relieved of all work duties.

However, an employer must pay for:

  • Breaks during which the employee must work. If, for instance, you are allowed to eat at your desk while working, or you have to wolf down your sandwich during a work meeting, that is not a break. That is work time, for which you must be paid. 
  • Breaks lasting 20 minutes or less. These shorter periods off are considered part of the regular work day, and employees are entitled to be paid for them under the FLSA. 

Washington Law on Meal Breaks

Washington employers must provide a 30-minute meal break to employees who work more than five consecutive hours. This break may not take place within the employee's first two hours of work, nor after the employee has worked five hours. The break is unpaid unless the employee is required to remain on site. 

Employees are entitled to an additional 30-minute break if they are required to work three hours or more beyond their usual shift. 

Washington Law on Rest Breaks 

In Washington, you are entitled to take a ten-minute rest break, with pay, for every four hours you work. Your employer must allow you to take your break in the middle of that work period, if practicable. You may not be required to work more than three hours without a rest break. 



What Are My Rights to Tips in Washington?
Am I Entitled to Paid Sick Leave, Family Leave, or Vacation Time in Washington?

Jurisdictional relevance:

There are versions of this article for each State.


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