What does it mean to take a lunch or a break at work? Green River College and the Washington State Legislature have outlined what overtime-eligible employees are entitled to:
According to WAC 296-126-092, the rules for meal and rest periods are as follows:
“Employees shall be allowed a meal period of at least thirty minutes which commences no less than two hours nor more than five hours from the beginning of the shift. Meal periods shall be on the employer’s time when the employee is required by the employer to remain on duty on the premises or at a prescribed work site in the interest of the employer.”
“No employee shall be required to work more than five consecutive hours without a meal period.”
“Employees shall be allowed a rest period of not less than ten minutes…for each four hours of working time. Rest Periods shall be scheduled as near as possible to the midpoint of the work period. No employee shall be required to work more than three hours without a rest period.”
The Washington State and WFSE have a few modifications found in Ch. 7 of the CBA:
“Unpaid meal periods for employees working more than five (5) consecutive hours, if entitled, will be a minimum of thirty (30) minutes and will be scheduled as close to the middle of the work shift as possible, taking into account the Employer’s work requirements and the employee’s wishes…Meal periods may not be used for late arrival or early departure from work and meal and rest periods will no be combined.”
“Employees will be allowed rest periods of fifteen (15) minutes for each one half (1/2) shift of four (4) or more hours worked at or near the middle of each one half (1/2) shift of four (4) or more hours.”
What does all this mean for Green River employees?
Let’s take a look at Johnny Snow, a security guard 3 with Campus Safety, whose standard day begins at 8:00am and finishes at 5:00pm (although his watch never truly ends). Mr. Snow works more than five consecutive hours a day, so he and his supervisor agree to have him take a meal break at the middle of his shift starting at 12:00pm and ending at 1:00pm. This gives him just enough time to share a few slices of dried, salted meat with his pet wolf. Johnny’s morning hours at work from 8:00am to 12:00pm fulfill the half-shift criterion, so he can take a 15-minute rest period at some point within that timeframe. The same follows for his afternoon work-period from 1:00pm to 5:00pm.
What if Johnny worked only six hours each day? If he started at 8:00am and ended at 3:00pm, he could have a single break period for 15 minutes at 10:00am, and still take his lunch from 12:00pm to 1:00pm. If Johnny worked less than six hours a day, he would still be entitled to meal and break periods according to the rules listed above (i.e. he gets a meal period as long as he works five consecutive hours and a break for every four.)
Seem complicated? Just remember the following:
The WAC and CBA rules establish the minimum meal and break times that overtime-eligible employees must take at work.
Determining your schedule should involve your supervisor, and if there are any questions you can always reach out to your HR department for clarification.