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Meal/rest breaks in Massachusetts

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  • Meal/rest breaks in Massachusetts

    Hopefully an easy question, but one I am getting conflicting answers for:
    (my background: I have held at least 10 full time or part time jobs in the state of Massachusetts in the past 20 years and this is the first company, which is usually very generous with its benefits, to differ in break policy. Also worked in CT and TX, which were essentially the same as "in my experience" stats below).

    In Massachusetts, how many hours do you have to work to get a mandatory 15 minute break?

    In Massachusetts, how many hours must you work to get a mandatory half an hour lunch break?

    ** this one is tricky because the way it is worded on the Mass Labor Law website it says any shift "over six hours" is entitled to half an hour break. Does this mean that if my shift is scheduled at EXACTLY six hours I do NOT get a half an hour break?

    What if my six hour shift FREQUENTLY (at least 80% of the time) is extended because of low staffing or high demand? If my "six hour" shift is hardly ever six hours, but usually six and a half to eight or more, should I get a half an hour lunch then?

    I only find out whether or not my shift is extended at the END of my shift, so there is not really a way of knowing ahead of time. I read alot of messages from people who do not WANT to take their break, but I DO, and I NEED to. I work at the airport! Stress central! (aaah, now you understand, right?)

    This is very problematic, because the Mass Labor Law website (sponsored by STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS) and the poster that we have in our break area are TOTALLY DIFFERENT.

    My supervisor said she got her information directly off of the poster in our break room and I am wondering how we have such differing "LAWS".

    At our work, we essentially have three shift lengths (all of which are usually extended to a longer period of time, people constantly stay past their shift)

    4.5 hours -- part time shift.
    In my experience, anything 4 hours or more gets a 15 minute break (not deducted).
    My supervisor says NO BREAK AT ALL. NONE.

    6 hours -- part time shift (MY SHIFT)
    In my experience, anything six hours or more gets half an hour break (deducted).
    My supervisor says ONLY FIFTEEN MINUTES.

    8 hours (or more) -- full time shift
    In my experience, anything 8 hours or more gets half an hour break (deducted) and a fifteen minute break (not deducted).
    My supervisor says ONE HALF HOUR BREAK, no fifteen (and that eight hour shifts are the MINIMUM of when you are even ELIGIBLE for a half hour break).

    If we do not work our half an hour break, we are to tell payroll and they reimburse us. This has never been a problem. It is actually frequently the case that I do not get time to take a break anyway. I just want to be entitled to on days that the operation permits it.

    But I have a HUGE problem with a six hour shift (overlaps most people's meal times) not getting a half an hour lunch break when it takes at least 15 minutes to even GET food in the airport, much less eat it.

    Someone tell me an official place I can PRINT SOMETHING OUT and GET THE REAL INFO because I think that my company is being unfair and they must have ordered that "labor law" poster from some charlatan or someone who doesn't know what the heck they're talking about.

    Thanks for any and all assistance you can give. You are saving many people's sanity by confirming the info I know to be true simply from working in this state (including for another much more strict airline) for so many years!!!

    E Johnson
    Boston, MA

    P.S. On the off chance that Massachusetts, land of worker, consumer, and tenant rights, actually made their rules more strict for some reason (UNLIKELY), how do I broach the subject of fair break times with my superiors? I know that others feel the same way. We don't have a union and don't want one, that is NOT an option.
    Last edited by EAJohnson; 03-03-2006, 10:37 AM.

  • #2
    That's a loooong way of asking what MA law is regarding rest and meal breaks. Here you go:


    • #3
      The ONLY break that is required by Massachusetts law is a 30 minute unpaid break for shifts exceeding 6 hours. Barring a bona fide contract that says otherwise or an industry-specific regulation that only applies to that industry (and I am not aware of any although there may be some) a 15 minute rest break is never mandatory.

      Despite a great deal of misinformation to the contrary, NO state requires a 15 minute rest break for adult employees (a VERY small number of states requires 10 minutes for each 4 hours worked - MA is not one of those states).

      I'm not sure why you assume that the poster your employer is looking at was printed by a "charlatan" because you do not want the law to be what it says. But this site will show you the labor law posters; check the upper right corner of the screen.
      The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


      • #4
        breaks in Mass

        Yes, I know my initial post was long. That is why I highlighted the pertinent questions and statements, as I will do here for those who wish to "skim" (I honestly don't mind).

        Thank you for your prompt responses.

        I was basing my information regarding break times on holding numerous positions, both part time and full time, in this state. These included working for a VERY strict airline whose policies (again, with NO union) were 15 minutes after four hours, half hour (unpaid) for 5.5 hours or more, and half hour (unpaid) plus 15 minutes for 8 hours. This is for the same job duties I currently perform.

        It is entirely possible that these were company policies of the airline rather than state policies, so I understand where they might differ.

        However, my current airline PRIDES itself on being pro-worker, and I am bristling that they would take away privileges that were formerly the norm.
        I understand that this site is about "THE LAW", but is there not some room for interpretation or discussion here?

        I read another entry from a senior member (forgive me, but I have lost the thread) that said that in Massachusetts a half an hour break was due to anyone who had a shift "six hours or more". I have also seen it worded "any shift over six hours" gets a half an hour break.
        Can this question of semantics be cleared up?
        It is important, because my shift is exactly six hours.
        Is it "more than six hours" or "six hours or more"?

        Assuming it is the former, "more than six hours":

        My other question seemed to get lost in the shuffle:
        If my so-called "six hour" shift is over six hours about 80% of the time, am I THEN entitled to a half an hour break?

        Circumstances of this work beyond my shift:
        I do not know whether my shift will be extended until the end of it.
        It is not exactly "voluntary".

        I work at the airport and we are frequently short-staffed or the operation calls for people staying past their shift.
        If we go into the next "shift bracket" on a regular basis, are we not entitled to THAT break status?

        I am disappointed and surprised to hear that 15 minutes is not a mandatory requirement. I believe you, no worries, but it has been standard at virtually every job I have ever held in three states (and if you saw my resume, you would think these emails were teeny blurbs!)

        I have worked in non-traditional environments (such as airlines, retail, and nightclubs) that make their own rules.
        I have worked in office environments that adhere strictly to specific rules.
        I have worked in a casino that was a sovereign nation and had its own rules.
        etc. etc. etc.

        The word "charlatan" was a poor choice, I will admit, but that poster (or my supervisor's interpretation of such) DOES seem to differ with the Mass State Website concerning MY shift, SIX HOURS.

        Last, but not least, have you ever BEEN to an airport? Of course you have, it's not even worth asking. But could a legal response to a question take into consideration some concern for the stress factor of this job and not just assume that I am some ignorant rabble rouser? I think it is pretty obvious that I'm not some ignoramus trying to cheat my company...?

        My company is taking away a break time that was formerly granted on the same length shift. I am simply questioning that.

        I tried to look up state statutes on my own and was sent from webpage to webpage with no satisfactory answer. I would appreciate a response to my questions regarding
        breaks for exactly six hour shifts and
        breaks for working over that shift on a consistent basis.

        I will go to the link that one of you provided, thank you.

        Thank you in advance for your kind consideration and polite, prompt response.

        E Johnson
        Boston, MA
        Last edited by EAJohnson; 03-03-2006, 12:19 PM.


        • #5
          You are entitled to a half hour unpaid break when you work more than 6 hours. There are no provisions in the law for a second break. Unlike some states, MA law does not say, "a half hour break for every x hours worked" - it says if you work over 6 hours you get a half hour break. That is the only break mandated by law.

          I have worked for a number of employers in this and other states as well, and I assure you that the 15 minute breaks you refer to were company policy, not law. As I said before, NO state in the US requires a fifteen minute break morning and afternoon for adult employees. I believe there are one or two which have such a requirement for minors and there are six states that have a ten minute break for every four hours work requirement. But the mandatory fifteen minute break twice a day that so many people believe in is a myth. It does not exist anywhere in this country if you are over the age of 18.

          If your shift is exactly six hours, you are not entitled to a break. The law clearly says MORE THAN six hours. I hope that clears up the confusion.

          I have spent far more time in airports than I want to in the last six months. However, nothing in the law says that if you're in a stressful situation you're entitled to more rights than those in non-stressful environments. The law is the same for everyone.

          I don't think you're a rabblerouser and I understand that you're upset but I do think you're trying to make this more difficult than it really is.
          The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.