What You Need to Know About Meal and Rest Breaks in Georgia

Many companies allow their employees to take meal and rest breaks throughout their workday. Here are some frequently asked questions about meal and rest breaks under Georgia law.

Georgia employees do not have a right to meal and rest breaks under federal and state laws, although most employers provide some in practice.

Does the law require employers to provide meal and rest breaks in Georgia?

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to provide meal and rest breaks to their employees. The Act leaves this legislation up to the states.

Contrary to states like New York or Minnesota, Georgia law doesn’t mandate employers to give meal and rest breaks to their employees. Many employers do in practice, but some companies lawfully refuse to provide meal and rest breaks to their employees.

Are employees paid if they eat at their desks with no break?

Under federal law, employers must pay their employees for all hours worked. They can deduct pay only when an employee spends time on an actual break.

As such, employers must pay their employees who work through lunch, even if they designate this period as a “break.” For example, if an employee eats at their desk while completing a work task, they must get paid for that time.

Related: Georgia Minimum Wage FAQs

Are employees paid during meal and rest breaks in Georgia?

Employers choosing to provide meal and rest breaks are subject to different FLSA restrictions depending on the length of the break.

Under the Code of Federal Regulation §785.18, employers must pay employees during short rest breaks lasting from five to 20 minutes. Federal law considers short rest breaks a common practice among employers and beneficial for the efficiency of employees.

However, the Code of Federal Regulations §785.19 doesn’t require employers to pay employees during “bona fide” meal periods lasting at least 30 minutes. Bona fide meal breaks do not include short coffee breaks or snack breaks. Employers can deduct pay from bona fide meal periods only if the employee doesn’t perform work-related tasks during this time.

Are minors entitled to meal and rest breaks in Georgia?

The FLSA and Georgia state laws do not require workers to provide meal and rest breaks. The FLSA applies to both adult workers and workers under 18.

As such, neither federal nor state law establishes a different policy for minor employees. They do not have a right to meal and rest breaks if their employer doesn’t offer any.

Can employers revoke a meal and rest break policy in Georgia?

Under federal and Georgia law, employers do not have to offer meal and rest breaks to employees. Employers may choose to voluntarily provide meal and rest breaks to their employees. However, employers may revoke this decision at any time or establish any limitations they find relevant.

Can employees request a meal and rest break for health reasons in Georgia?

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents employers from discriminating against disabled individuals and requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to employees with a disability. The ADA applies to all local and state governments and private employers with at least 15 employees. It defines a disability as any health condition that “substantially impairs one or more major life activities.” ADA reasonable accommodations include a modified work schedule and additional breaks.

As such, Georgia employees can request a reasonable accommodation from their employer due to health reasons, provided their health condition qualifies under the ADA. This accommodation can include additional rest breaks, for example, if the employee needs to take medication or monitor their health regularly.

Can an employer refuse to give me ADA accommodations in Georgia?

Employers can refuse to provide reasonable accommodations under the ADA if they cause undue hardship to the employer’s business, for instance, if they create a hazard in the workplace or demand significant difficulty or expense.

Employers do not have to provide a health-related break for employees who do not qualify under the ADA.

Do meal and rest break restrictions apply to bathroom breaks in Georgia?

Federal law regulates bathroom breaks separately from meal and rest periods. Although the FLSA doesn’t mention a required number or duration of bathroom breaks, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide safe and immediately available bathroom facilities.

Under OSHA regulations, employers must allow workers to leave work to use the bathroom whenever needed and avoid imposing unreasonable restrictions on bathroom use. Although an employer may deny meal and rest breaks to employees, they cannot excessively restrict the use of bathroom facilities.

The OSHA mandates workers to recognize that the frequency of bathroom use varies among employees. Employers cannot restrict bathroom breaks as easily as meal and rest periods.

Related: Tipped Employee Rights in Georgia

Can employees file a complaint in case of unpaid breaks?

The FLSA requires employers to pay employees for short breaks lasting five to 20 minutes and work through lunch.

Georgia law does not provide for a state enforcement system regarding unpaid wages. Employees facing unpaid break wages may file a complaint with the federal Wage and Hour Division of the US Department of Labor or file a lawsuit.

What is the statute of limitations for unpaid wages in Georgia?

In Georgia, employees have two years to file a claim over unpaid wages from the date their employer violated FLSA provisions. If the employer intentionally violated the FLSA, the law extends the deadline to three years for unpaid wages claims and lawsuits.

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