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rest periods for NH and MA New Hampshire

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  • rest periods for NH and MA New Hampshire

    I work at a retail company in NH but it is based in MA. We have a shift that is from 5pm to about 9:30-10:15pm. There is confusion as to what rest periods must be provided to employees working this shift. I have checked both NH and MA labor laws and only see that they are entitled to a 30min lunch period after 5 consecutive hours in NH and 6 in MA, with no mention of paid rest periods. Generally they will work a 4 1/2 hour - 5 hour 15min shift. I see nothing stipulating paid break requirements. I have heard several opinions, all conflicting, as to the actual state law. We have been keeping break logs on file for the current year to provide a record of paid breaks given to the employees for about the past 3 years and alot of time is used filing and storing those records, however I see no law requiring such breaks, let alone the pile of paperwork we accummulate to prove they were provided. There also seems to be confusion in the management about this issue, some will say that a paid break is not required for employees working 5 hours or less, some say less then 5 and others say within the 5 hour shift they must have a 10min break or all the wrath of the labor department will be unleashed. If I understand the law as I have read it, the employees working the shift for more then 5 hours would need a 30min lunch period, while the ones that are there less then five would not. The problem we run into is that we don't know if they will have to stay more then five hours until the last 1/2 hour of the night, which it seems odd to have them take a half hour lunch because they must stay 5-10 minutes late. We try to get them out at 9:30 by working fast and furious however sometimes it doesn't work out and we need them to stay alittle late, but never more then 15min. I apologize for my drawn out post, but anyone that could provide some insight into this situation would be appreciated.
    Last edited by Chandler76; 07-03-2006, 02:26 PM.

  • #2
    Rest breaks are not required by law in either MA or NH. There are actually very few states that require rest breaks. Rest breaks are also not required under Federal law.

    All MA law requires is that employees who work six hours or more receive a 30 minute meal break, which can be unpaid. NH law requires employee who work five consecutive hours receive a 30 minute meal break, which again can be unpaid. In NH (but not MA) this break can be waived if the employee is allowed to eat while working and it is feasible for him to do so.

    Federal law does not require breaks of any sort at any time. However, Federal law says that IF breaks are offered (or required by state law), breaks of less than 20 minutes must be paid breaks, and that in order for a longer break to be unpaid, the employee must be completely relieved of duty.
    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.


    • #3
      that is why I'm a bit confused as to why the company goes to the great lenghths it does to provide proof of breaks that are not required in the first place. The lunches are provided and the company is strict about enforcing proper time card punches. If an employee forgets to sign the break sheets, they chase them down during there next shift to sign. One example was just the other day when the closing crew were working the 5pm- 9:30pm shift. They were running alittle behind and at about 9:20 (store closes at 9) they asked me if they could take a 10 minute break. I told them they they would not be entitled to a break for the shift they were working. Being that they were behind due to their lack of effort I find it hard to reward them with a break. One of the employees stated that if they stay past 10 they would be required by law to take a 10min break (which I uderstand that it would actually be a 30min unpaid lunch). I stated that I would make sure they were out before 10 even if the job was not finished, and use other departments employees that had already taken there required lunches due to working a longer shift to stay the extra 15min. to complete the job. The denial of a break made them pick up speed and we were done and everyone punched out before 10pm. I mentioned it to the store manager and he just about had a heart attack saying that they are required to have a 10min break within that 5 hour period. I have worked at this store for about 9 years and have never given breaks for a less then five hour shift in my department unless we were ahead or they were doing a exellent job. Some departments in the store do give paid 10min breaks for less then five hour shifts because they have less work and more people to cover, and I think this creates confusion as to who is correct. I was told that I misinformed the employee of the law and that I was putting myself and the store manager in a bad position by doing so. I always try to follow the rules and this caught me alittle of gaurd because it was the first time I had heard that it was required. I came home and looked up the laws and found nothing to support his accusation that I misinformed anyone and that it seems no one in the company actually knows the law. So if I understand correctly, and employee that works 5 hours or less is not required to have any breaks, paid or unpaid, and an employee that works more then five consecutive hours is entitled to a 30min lunch. Both states have no stipulations for paid rest periods. Is this correct? Our shifts are always on time, except for the closing shift that can vary from 4h 30min - 5h 15min. Even though the employee will only go over the 5h by 15min. they are still required to have a paid/unpaid 30min lunch, punch back in, work 10min to complete the job then leave? As I said I usually will just send them home before they need the lunch and finish the job myself to avoid giving them a longer break then would be required to just complete the job and go home (after all, who would stay at work for an extra 40min taking a break and finishing up, when they could just go home in 10?). I hate wrangling with people about the law because these days, it seems everyone is just looking to file a lawsuit.


      • #4
        Ask the people who are telling you that the law in either MA or NH (or Federal law for that matter) requires rest breaks, to show you that law. They won't be able to, because it doesn't exist.

        Here's some info that may help you.

        If you don't see a law for a meal or rest break listed there, there is no law.
        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.


        • #5
          Thanks for the links. I checked with some guys at the company and they stated that we sign breaks logs now because one of the 13,000 employees somewhere claimed he wasn't given proper breaks. Its strange to me because with no law requiring paid breaks in NH or MA, (the only two states we operate) why sign break log sheets and stockpile them for proof? If he was getting cheated out of lunches it would show in the time card punches and be automatically flagged by the computer payroll system. I guess it's just one of those things we'll never figure out. Thanks again for the information.


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