Lunch and Break Law Governing Nebraska

In researching current lunch and break laws in various states, I learned that Nebraska is one of 19 states that has a specific regulation in this area. If a Nebraska employee in certain types of industries has worked at least eight consecutively in a given day, he or she must be given a 30 minute unpaid break. This meal break must allow the worker to be completely relieved of his or her duties. The employer also may not require that employees remain inside the building or on the workplace premises during this break.

I found it interesting that the state law only specifies that the regulation only applies to certain industries. These breaks are only mandated for employees working in assembling plants, workshops or “mechanical establishments.” It also doesn’t apply in workplaces where a collective bargaining agreement sets out other arrangements.

Nebraska law does not specifically provide for any other breaks during the workday other than this 30 minute unpaid meal period. However, if employers do wish to give short breaks to workers during the day, Federal law states that these must be paid breaks if they are 20 minutes or less in length.

Finally, there are some work-hour issues found in federal law related to sleep time, waiting time, and travel time that Nebraskans may be interested in. Whether or not waiting time needs to be considered paid work hours depends on the situation. If an employee is allowed to do something of his or her choosing while waiting for another task to be finished or while waiting at the workplace for his or her services to be called upon, it is generally considered work time. On the other hand, if an employee is waiting to be called upon, but has great freedom to do what he or she wishes while on call (and has plenty of time to respond to the call), it is not generally considered paid work time.

Then there is the issue of travel time. The general rule of thumb is that time spent in the normal day’s commute to and from work is not considered paid working time. However, if an employee is traveling in the course of a days work, it must be considered paid work time.

When it comes to sleeping time, an employee required to be on duty less than 24 hours is considered to be “working” even if he or she is permitted to sleep during some of those hours when not busy. If an employee is on duty more than 24 hours, a sleeping period of no more than eight hours may be deducted from work hours. However, this can only be done if sleeping facilities are provided and at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep may be achieved by the employee.

A complete presentation of federal and state laws related to lunches and breaks, as well as all other labor issues, can be found on the Nebraska Complete Labor Law Poster.

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