Can An Employer Tell an Employee When To Take Their Break?

September 10, 2015
Can An Employer Tell an Employee When To Take Their Break?

More often than not, you can assign specific lunch times for employees. You'll need to check your local laws to find out what the answer is for your company.

Federal laws around lunch breaks

According to the US Department of Labor, there's currently no federal law mandating employer-supplied breaks or lunchtimes.

State laws around lunch breaks

However, over two-thirds of states have their own policies regarding lunch hours. Some, like Louisiana, for example, have no policies whatsoever.

Before creating your break policy, you should check with the US Department of Labor to see if your state has any specific laws you need to abide by.

Advantages and disadvantages

While there's no law against assigning specific times for lunches Sarah is assigned to take lunch from 12:00-1:00, while David's assigned lunch is from 1:00-2:00, for example you might want to consider how it can impact your employees.

Having assigned lunch times might not be the most efficient option in terms of employee productivity. For instance, if an employee gets a call from a client or has an emergency meeting scheduled at their lunch hour, they could be forced to give up their break or sacrifice valuable work time.

Assigned lunches could also negatively impact company culture. Eating lunch together can be a good way to promote camaraderie and improve morale. If employees aren't assigned the same lunch as their coworkers or are forced to eat lunch with the same group of people every day, you could lose an opportunity to build a positive and cohesive work environment.

Alternatively, if your employees work in a call center, for instance, scheduling lunch breaks can guarantee that everyone takes a lunch, while ensuring that call volume doesn't decrease at any one point. If you know, or expect, a rush of customers at certain times, you may want to schedule lunches around those periods so that all hands are on deck once the rush hits.


While there's no federal law against assigning specific lunch times for employees, check your state's laws, and assess how assigning scheduled lunch times can impact team effectiveness and culture before deciding whether or not to assign scheduled lunches.

Helpful Links:

Meal and Rest Breaks: What Small Business Employers Need to Know -

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