Meal and Rest Breaks in Tennessee

Your entitlement to meal and rest breaks depends on state law.

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

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In Tennessee, you are not entitled to paid rest breaks.

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. 

Tennessee Law on Meal Breaks

In Tennessee, employees who are scheduled to work a shift of at least six hours are entitled to a 30-minute meal break, unpaid. The employer may not schedule this break during the employee's first hour of work. Employers don't have to provide meal breaks if the nature of the work allows for frequent breaks throughout the work day. 

Certain tipped employees may voluntarily waive their right to take a meal break. 

Tennessee Law on Rest Breaks 

Tennessee law does not require employers to provide rest breaks. If your employer chooses to let employees take rest breaks, it must pay you for breaks that last for 20 minutes or less.

 


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