Rest & Meals Periods

What Are the Rest Break and Meal Period Requirements for Adult Workers?

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  • Workers must be allowed a paid rest break of at least 10 minutes for each 4 hours worked.
  • The rest break must be allowed no later than the end of the third hour of the shift.
  • Yes. Businesses may allow workers to take several "mini" breaks in each 4 hours of working time. If these mini breaks total 10 minutes this substitutes for a scheduled rest break.
  • Examples of mini rest breaks are personal phone calls, eating a snack, personal conversations, smoke breaks, and whenever there is no work to do for a few minutes during a work shift.

The business may require workers to stay on the work site during:

  • Their paid rest breaks.
  • Their meal period if the business pays the worker during that meal period.
  • Their meal period without paying them if the workers are completely relieved from duty for the entire meal period and will never be called back to work during the meal period.

If more than 5 hours are worked in a shift:

  • Workers must be allowed at least a 30-minute meal period.
  • Workers must be at least 2 hours into the shift before the meal period can start.
  • The meal period cannot start more than 5 hours after the beginning of the shift.
  • A business is not required to pay for meal periods if workers are free from any duties for their entire meal period.
  • Workers must be paid during their meal period when
    • they are required or allowed to remain on duty,
    • they are required to be on-call at the business premises or designated worksite to be available to return to duty even if they are not in fact called back to duty, and
    • they are called back to duty during their meal period even though they normally are not on call during the meal period.
  • Expand/collapse Can a worker choose to give up his or her meal period?

    Workers may give up their meal period if they prefer to work through it and if the employer agrees.

    Business owners please note: The Department of Labor & Industries recommends that you get a written statement from workers who want to give up their meal periods.

For more detail, see L&I administrative policy:
Acrobat PDF file Meal and Rest Periods (ES.C.6) (21 KB PDF)

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