Washington State Meal and Rest Break Laws
All hard workers deserve to have a proper rest period, and under Washington state law, employees are entitled to such breaks. Taking breaks, such as a lunch break, can help employees relax and refocus their energy so that they can maintain momentum throughout the workday. A proper break time can also prevent employees from getting injured due to fatigue and protect customers from being impacted by otherwise avoidable mistakes.
Therefore, Washington’s state meal and rest break laws and regulations require employers to offer their workers such paid short breaks to avoid negative repercussions. If you are a Washington employee who has had your labor rights breached, an employment lawyer at Ferraro Vega Employment Lawyers can advise you on sensible steps moving forward and help you secure your labor rights again.
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Scheduling Meal and Rest Breaks in the Workplace
In the state of Washington, employers set work and break schedules for employees. It is not required for employers to not assign work on weekends or holidays. Additionally, employers can change the schedules as they see fit. They can also make workers work overtime, so long as they pay them at least 1.5 times their hourly wage. Therefore, it is extremely important to read your employment contract thoroughly before signing to determine what the terms of your work schedule are.
It’s important to note that there are certain types of workers in Washington who cannot have their schedules changed without regulation and may be limited to working a certain amount of overtime. These workers include people in the healthcare industry as well as those who are engaged in the service industry, restaurant industry, or scaled-up retail.
Understanding Rest Break Laws
In the state of Washington, every worker is entitled to a minimum paid break of 10 minutes per 4 hours on the clock. In addition to this essential rule, there are other regulations that must be followed, including:
- Workers can be required to remain on site for their work break by their employers.
- When planning the worker’s schedule, employers must attempt to schedule the break as close to the middle of each 4-hour work period as possible.
- It is illegal to make an employee work over 3 hours consecutively without having at least 10 minutes of break.
- These breaks must be paid for and are therefore considered part of the salary or wages received by workers. When calculating overtime pay and paid time off, the time and money accrued during breaks must be considered.
Depending on the nature of the work, there is an option to take many different ultra-small breaks that add up to 10 minutes throughout each 4-hour work period. Additionally, if a worker is breastfeeding, they may be entitled to longer and more frequent break times in Washington State. Also, employees in the healthcare sector might have different rest break laws that apply to their situation compared to other workers in Washington State.
Access to the Restroom
In addition to the provided breaks, employees in Washington also need to be able to use proper hygiene areas with toilets. Restroom breaks do not need to be listed in the work schedule. This means that employees should be able to use the restroom when they need to, so long as the visits are not excessive or unreasonable. If you are a worker in Washington who is being restricted from accessing the restroom during your job, you should speak with an employment lawyer to learn about how you can resecure your rights.
Understanding Meal Periods
Meal periods are introduced into the work schedule after workers in Washington have been working for over five hours consecutively. A meal period, or a break to allot time for a worker to consume a proper meal, needs to have a minimum length of 30 minutes and begin after the second hour and before the fifth hour of the work period.
To understand whether you are entitled to more than one meal period in a day, it is useful to speak with an experienced employment lawyer. Meal breaks are paid for by the employer if certain criteria are met. If a worker is made to stay on call, or is technically still in the process of carrying out their job, then they must be paid for that time.
Additionally, if a Washington employee is not allowed to leave the work site, and it somehow benefits the employer, then they must be paid for their meal period. Also, if they are taking their break, and they are summoned back to work during it, or interrupted frequently, then they must be paid for the time interrupted and still be allowed to get 30 minutes of total meal break.
Unpaid Meal Periods and Extra Meal Breaks
While meal breaks are technically not considered time worked, and are not considered when calculating factors such as overtime payments and paid time off, they are factors if the employee was technically working during this time. Meal breaks, where the employee is completely off duty, are not paid, and the employee can only be made to stay on work premises if they are truly free of all responsibilities at work during this time.
Whether an employee is entitled to extra meal breaks depends on the circumstances of the job and the amount of time worked. For example, if an employee works 3 hours over their normal work period, they have the option to get extra meal breaks within the next five hours from the previous meal break.
Evaluate Your Case and Help You Gather Evidence
If you believe your employer has violated your rights, the first thing you should do is find an attorney who can evaluate your case to see if you have a claim. Our employment lawyers can listen to you and your unique situation and help you determine whether you have substantial reason to file a claim. If we believe you do, our team can also assist you in gathering evidence and filing your claim. Because meal and rest break violations are technically a form of wage theft, you’ll need to have strong evidence to support your claim.
Voiding Meal Periods
If a Washington employee decides that they do not want to take their meal period, and keep working straight through the day, they have the option to do this. However, they must get their employer’s approval as well and then fill out a variance application with the state. It should also be noted that while meal breaks can be waived, it is not possible to avoid taking rest breaks under Washington State law.
Washington State Meal and Rest Break Violation: How to Take Action
If you are a hardworking employee in Washington, it can be upsetting to not receive the compensation or break times that you deserve under state law. It can be extremely difficult to know how to proceed with the situation, and many fear that they might receive repercussions or even be fired from their job for taking action.
However, it’s important to know that under Washington State law, you cannot be reprimanded or face any punishment for trying to make sure that you get the meal and break times that you deserve. If you are in such a situation, you can take the following steps to get your break times back:
- Read Up on Washington State Labor Laws: It’s important to be aware of what break times and mealtimes you are entitled to, based on your contract, and what kind of employee you are.
- Keep Tabs on Everything That Happens: Every time your employer violates your break and mealtime rights, you will need to record the day and time as well as the specifics of what happened. Be sure to keep your work hour logs, and note where you were not allowed to take required breaks. You can also keep track of texts, emails, and other modes of communication that may be relevant to your break and mealtimes.
- Speak With Your Boss: It is important to bring up the issue of missed breaks and mealtimes with your employer and understand what their intentions are. It could be that they are not aware of state law and might correct their actions. You should adequately express what your break and mealtime rights are in Washington and ask your boss to comply with them.
- Reach Out to a Labor Union: Many times, individuals from labor unions can help you with your situation and get you the adequate meal and break times that you deserve. They can assist you in speaking with your employer and, if necessary, filing a complaint.
- Submit a Formal Complaint: This can be filed with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. If your employer still does not comply with the law after you have spoken to them, you should file a complaint with the state. Along with the documentation, you will need to provide evidence that state labor laws were broken. An experienced employment lawyer can help you with this process.
- Hire a Washington Employment Lawyer: When you hire an employment lawyer, you are increasing your chances of a favorable outcome. By explaining to them your situation, they can help you decide whether you should resolve the dispute formally (through the court system) or informally (via discussion with your employer). An employment lawyer can lay out all your meal and break time rights and help you collect evidence to present your case.
Trying to understand Washington State labor laws, and how you can go about defending your rights under them, can be confusing and stressful. Therefore, hiring a compassionate and skilled employment lawyer can help alleviate the process and allow you to gain confidence moving forward.
Meal Break & Rest Breaks FAQs
Q: In the State of Washington, Do Employees Have to Take 10-Minute Breaks?
A: Yes, in Washington State, employers must give employees at least 10 minutes of rest breaks for every 4 hours worked. It is not possible for employees or employers to agree to voiding this break time. The employee must take the break, and it must be paid. In some cases, mini-breaks that add up to at least 10 minutes can be taken during the 4-hour work period.
Q: If I Work 8 Hours in Washington, What Breaks Am I Entitled To?
A: If you are a Washington State employee who has worked for 8 hours, this is two 4-hour shifts total, which means you should get two 10-minute rest breaks that you are receiving payment for. Also, since there is a 5-hour shift within the 8 hours, you are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid meal break as well. However, if your boss keeps you on-site to their advantage, or does not completely relieve you of your duties during mealtime, you should receive payment.
Q: How Do Breaks and Lunches Work for Employees in Washington?
A: The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries enforces the labor law in Washington, which states that employees must receive 10 minutes of paid break for every 4 consecutive hours worked and 30 minutes of unpaid mealtime for every 5 hours worked. The meal period must be between the second and fifth hours of the work period.
Q: Can I Be Forced to Take Breaks While Working in Washington State?
A: It’s critical to know that, in Washington State, you must take your 10-minute paid rest break for every 4-hour work period. However, you do not have to take your unpaid 30-minute lunch break for every 5-hour work period if you and your employer agree on this. It’s important to remember that these breaks are positive for your mental and physical health. They can help you revitalize before working again, which can help prevent errors that could lead to injury.
Secure Your Washington Break and Mealtime Rights
When you are working hard as an employee, it’s important to ensure that you have adequate access to break and mealtime rights. Sometimes, your employer may make a simple mistake and forget to adhere to Washington State laws. However, unfortunately, in other instances, your employer may be exploiting your labor and your time. A fierce employment lawyer from Ferraro Vega San Diego Employment Lawyers can help you understand the difference between the two and enable you to take action accordingly.
With years of experience in employment law, our team knows how to listen to and understand the details of your employment case, as well as answer any significant questions or concerns that you may have. Contact one of our employment lawyers today to receive more information and details on break and mealtime rights in Washington State and learn how to move forward with your case.