Colorado Break Laws

Colorado break laws require employers to provide breaks and pay employees for some of this time. Colorado break laws also require employers to provide employees with paid rest breaks and a meal break.

Under Colorado's break law, certain employers are required to give employees who have worked at least five hours in the workday a 30-minute meal break. Although a meal break for employees is required, under Colorado law, an employer is not required to pay for employee's meal breaks. For a meal break to qualify as an unpaid break, the worker must be completely relieved of his or her duties and must be free to engage in personal activities during this time.

Service employees who are covered for meal breaks in Colorado include the following:

  • Food and beverage workers
  • Commercial support service workers
  • Retail and service workers
  • Housekeeping employees
  • Dry cleaning employees
  • Medical and health facilities employees

Employees exempt from meal breaks include the following:

  • Teachers
  • Managers
  • Nurses
  • Administrative workers

Colorado law also provides that employees are entitled to rest breaks. A 10-minute rest break is required under Colorado law to be given to an employee for each four-hour segment worked or for those who have worked what would factor out to be the major fraction of four hours worked.

Additionally, Colorado law stipulates that employers will pay employees for the 10-minute rest break. Employers should schedule rest breaks in the middle of the workday, if practical. Employers are allowed to make it mandatory that any employee taking a 10-minute break must stay on the work premises for the duration of their break time.

What Is a Duty-Free Meal Break?

A duty-free meal break is one where the employee is relieved of all duties and free to use their meal break for personal activities.

In Colorado, the labor laws are clear about duty-free breaks, requiring that the employee be completely relieved of all responsibilities and work duties.

Although the law is clear about employee's being free to pursue personal activities during their meal break, Colorado laws for lunches and breaks does recognize there are some situations where it may not be possible for employees to be completely relieved of their duties.

What Are Federal Break Laws?

What people may not be aware of is that under federal law, employees do not have the right to take time off to eat lunch or other meals. The law also does not give employees the right to take rest breaks or short meal breaks during the work day.

Regardless of federal law, employers can choose to provide meals or rest breaks to employees. This may be due to custom, policy, or understanding that employees who are tired and hungry are not as effective at their jobs.

By federal law, two situations require employers to pay employees for hours worked. Federal law requires that employees be paid if they work through a meal or when taking a rest break.

To qualify for meal or rest break pay, each break must last from 5 to 20 minutes. This timeframe is considered part of the employee's workday.

An actual meal break is one that lasts for a minimum of 30 minutes. Depending on the circumstance, shorter break periods may also qualify for pay. Employers are not required to pay for actual meal breaks where the employees are relieved of all job duties and their time is their own.

What Is Colorado Overtime Law?

The labor laws in Colorado require an employer to pay employees overtime unless there is an applicable exemption. Overtime occurs when an employee works over 40 hours within a workweek, 12 consecutive hours without regard to the workday, or more than 12 hours in a workday. The overtime rate for the extra hours worked is 1.5 times an employee's regular pay rate.

What Laws Apply to Minors?

At this time, there is no specific law that addresses minors who have job positions in the workplace. In Colorado, an employee who is considered a minor is entitled to the same benefits for their meals and rest breaks that are granted to adult employees.

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