HR Q&A: Are Employees Entitled To 15 Minute Rest Breaks Throughout The Day?

Over the years we have received a lot of questions on the myHRgenius hotline program regarding requirements for providing employees with short rest breaks, excluding meal breaks, throughout the day. As part of our Q&A series we thought it appropriate to address break leaves, which we will be doing over the next few weeks. 

Question: As an employer, am I required to provide rest breaks to my employees?

Answer: Likely not, but it depends on your state law.

While most states do NOT require employers provide employees with a specified amount of time to take breaks throughout the day, including smoke breaks, the requirements to otherwise provide access to restrooms and to get coffee or snacks vary by state. Below are a few state laws to show you the differences when it comes to rest breaks.

Minnesota: state law requires employers to provide employees with time to use the nearest restroom within each 4 consecutive hours of work.  Normally rest breaks in Minnesota are counted toward an employee’s total hours worked if the break is less than 20 minutes.

Illinois, New York, Texas & Massachusetts: laws from these four states do not require an employer to provide rest breaks, even though employers may determine to do so anyway.  Under federal labor laws, employers who do decide to provide employees with break time must pay employees for short breaks, usually for breaks lasting up to 20 minutes. Breaks in excess of 20 minutes  can generallybe unpaid.

California: being the pro-employee state it is, California provides more generous laws to employees in terms of rest breaks.  For every 4 hours an employee works, he or she is entitled to at least one uninterrupted, work-free 10 minute paid break.  Further, if an employee works at least 3.5 hours in a day, that employee is entitled to one rest break.  If an employee works over 6 hours in a day, that employee is entitled to a second rest break and if the employee works over 10 hours in a day, that employee is entitled to a third rest break.

If you have additional questions regarding employee break requirements in your region, please contact your Thompson Coe attorney at (651) 389-5000 or at  You can also find helpful information and previous HR tips at


Thompson Coe’s Tips of the Week are not intended as a solicitation, do not constitute legal advice and do not establish an attorney-client relationship.

Kevin Mosher