What are the laws governing breaks in AZ?

Understanding your rights as an employee in Arizona is important. In the event of full-time employment, most expect an 8 hour work day. However, fitting breaks into this picture can be confusing.

Like many states in the country, Arizona actually does not have any specific laws that require employers to provide either breaks during the work day or meal periods. However, according to the employment law handbook, it is common for employers who offer breaks during the day to pay employees for these breaks if they are not meal breaks.

Are there any laws that address breaks? 

Since Arizona does not have specific laws governing breaks, it defaults to federal law. Concerning breaks during the workday, federal law dictates that these breaks should be part of the paid working day. This means that if you take a 20-minute break, your employer should be paying you for that break. Typically, breaks of this nature last at least 5 minutes and no longer than 20 minutes.

Breaks for meal periods specifically are a little bit different. According to federal law, a meal period lasts for at least 30 minutes. Assuming that the employee is not doing anything related to work during this meal period, the employee is not entitled to payment.

How do breaks work with overtime requirements? 

If the break is 20 minutes or less, this period will count toward overtime requirements. In the case of a meal break, this period of time is unpaid and does not count toward overtime. Employees must be aware of limitations that employers place on paid break periods. For instance, it is lawful for a company to subject an employee to discipline if the employee is taking breaks longer than an employer allows.