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What meal periods and rest breaks are required in Washington?

On Behalf of | Jul 8, 2024 | Uncategorized

Employees in Washington have the right to rest breaks and meal periods if they work a certain amount of time. This state has very strict requirements for these time-related benefits, and employers who don’t comply with them can face penalties.

These guidelines apply to nearly all employees in Washington, but there are some limited exceptions. For example, a medical professional can sometimes have these times interrupted without penalty to their employer. Understanding what’s required and applicable limitations can beneficial for all employees and employers alike.

Meal period requirements

Meal periods can be unpaid as long as an employee is completely relieved of their work duties for the entirety of their break. They must be free to leave the premises and can’t be on-call. It must also be paid if they’re called back before the end of the established lunch period.

Employees who work at least five hours must have a 30-minute meal break that happens between their second and fifth hour worked. If they work three hours longer than their scheduled shift, they’re required to have a second meal period that’s taken within five hours of the first meal period’s end. An additional meal period is required for every five hours worked.

Rest break requirements

Employees must always have reasonable access to a bathroom, and the opportunity to relieve themselves can’t be limited only to meal times. Besides meal periods, employees must also be given rest breaks, which are always paid and count as hours worked. One break is required for every four hours worked, but an employee who works three hours still gets one rest break. These should be scheduled as close to the middle of the covered period as possible.

Employees who aren’t receiving the meal periods and rest breaks they’re due may be in a position to seek legal recourse. Keeping a record of those that were missed can be beneficial for employees who decide to pursue a claim. Fighting back against an employer who isn’t complying with labor laws can be a challenge, so it may behoove those employees to seek legal assistance from someone familiar with these matters.