Does Ohio Law Require Breaks at Work?

Sep 08, 2017
By Peter Friedmann

Ohio has no law requiring employers to offer paid breaks, or any breaks for that matter, to their employees. We know this may come as a shock, as it is a common misconception that employers must provide breaks during an eight-hour shift but this is simply not the case.  Another common misconception is that you are entitled to a lunch break.  You are not.  You are not entitled to any break, paid or otherwise, as an Ohio employee.  Employers may choose to offer breaks but you are not legally entitled to them.  Many employers do choose to offer breaks but it is important to know, they are not legally required to do so.


In better news, federal law and Ohio law mandate that employees must be paid for each minute they spend actually working.  For instance, if you are given a lunch break but you spend that time working, you must be paid for it.  If you are eating lunch and not working, however, your employer can choose not to pay you for that time.  Do not feel pressured or obligated to clock out and work through your lunch.  If you are working, you must be paid or the employer is violating the law.


The reality of ensuring employees receive all the money they deserve for the time they spend working can become more complicated than the preceding explanation indicates. An experienced equal compensation lawyer in Columbus, Ohio, may need to file a lawsuit for a worker who believes his or her employer treated them differently from co-workers in allowing breaks or in refusing to pay for hours worked.


All Employees Must Be Treated Equally When It Comes to Breaks


Many businesses and agencies in Ohio grant employees a few breaks each workday even though no law requires them to do so. When an employer does have a policy of permitting morning and afternoon breaks and/or a 30 or 60 minute lunch period, every employee should be allowed to use those periods to step away from work.


Federal labor regulations make it clear that taking an unpaid break means that you stop actually working. If you are taking a break, you should not be working.  If you are working, you must be paid.  Working through a break counts as working, and an employee who does that must be compensated for the time.


Breaks May Factor Into Overtime Calculations


The employer can, and probably should, ask workers who get paid by the hour to clock out when they go on break and to clock back in when they report back from break.


Many disputes about unpaid overtime come down to whether an employee actually spent more than 40 hours per week working and whether the employer recognized that this happened. An important note in this regard is that tipped employees such as waiters, waitresses, bartenders, and hotel staff must receive overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours. Therefore, tracking breaks and shift work is especially important for people who take tips, as well as non-tipped employees.


Columbus employment lawyers at the Friedmann Firm offers free and confidential consultations, and we welcome calls to 614.610.9755. Appointments can also be scheduled online by filling out this contact form.