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June 8, 2018

Beat the Heat

It’s about to get hot here in Boston, and it’s important that everyone watches out for their own health and the health of those around us. This includes friends, family, and coworkers.

By law, your boss doesn't actually have to provide you with any rest periods, save for special circumstances for pregnant or nursing mothers, for example. Little 10 or 15 minute breaks are at each employer’s discretion. They are, however, required to provide you with a 30 minute meal break during any shift lasting more than 6 hours.

This break is unpaid, but it’s important to take it or remind your boss that you need it if you’re feeling especially tired, hungry, or dehydrated. While we all need our wages, we also all need to take care of our own health to avoid any medical problems which could result in missing more work. Any employer who pays employees for meal breaks is doing so of their own volition.

Only the employees themselves, and not the employers, can waive the right to this break. If your boss agrees to not have you take the break after you ask then you must still be paid for all of the time you spent working. It is illegal for your boss to coerce you into skipping your unpaid break.

There is one exception to the unpaid aspect of the break law: if you’re still working while eating. An example of this might be getting that 30 minutes to eat your meal, but you still need to be at your desk answering phones, supervising employees, or performing any aspect of your job especially when your movement is restricted in some way. In such instances you should still be paid because you’re working while you’re eating. This advisory from the Attorney General’s Office expands on this part of the law.

If your employer is violating the meal break law in any way, or any other aspect of employment law, contact the Boston Bar Association Lawyer Referral service at 617-742-0625, or fill out our online form here to get connected with an experienced employment lawyer today. Our attorneys have many years of experience protecting the rights and health of Massachusetts workers. Fight for your right to rest.