Time for Clarity: Oregon’s BOLI Break Laws Unpacked

BOLI Break Laws: A new regulation of special significance to employers and employees for whom a 30-minute meal time is either rarely or frequently impractical was released by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) on January 12, 2009. The new law makes it clearer what is expected of companies that don't offer a 30-minute meal interval as well as what has to happen during those times.

Oregon's BOLI Break Laws Unpacked
Oregon’s BOLI Break Laws Unpacked

Do you get lunch or rest breaks from your Oregonian employer?

It may surprise you to hear that employees are not entitled by federal law to take breaks throughout the workday or to time off for lunch or another meal. Employers are not obligated to offer shorter breaks to workers during the day; nonetheless, workers must be compensated for these breaks.

Due to tradition and legislation, many firms offer these breaks, maybe realizing that a fatigued and hungry worker is not a nice or effective employee to customers or coworkers. As reasonable as this may appear, federal law does not oblige companies to provide breaks.

Paid vs Unpaid Breaks 

Employers are required by federal BOLI law to compensate employees for all hours worked, including any time they want to designate as “breaks.” For instance, time spent working during a meal by an employee must be compensated. It is necessary to compensate a receptionist for covering phones or waiting on deliveries during lunch, just as it is necessary to pay a paralegal for eating at her desk during work or a repairman for stopping for a brief break while traveling from one task to another. The worker is still entitled to compensation even if the employer refers to this period of time as a lunch break.

The brief breaks that employees are permitted to take throughout the workday must also be covered by the employer under federal law. Five to twenty-minute breaks are seen as an integral element of the working and are subject to pay for employees.

For genuine meal breaks, in which an employee is released from all responsibilities to consume a meal, employers are not required to pay. As long as they are not required to work, employees are not required to be able to leave the workplace during a meal break. A meal break is often considered “bona fide” if it lasts for 30 minutes or more, while shorter breaks could potentially be acceptable in some situations.

These guidelines, however, only apply if the company permits breaks. Only the payment of wages for a certain period of time—even if it is classified as a break—is required by federal law. Employers are not required to provide break time in the first place.

Oregon Law Requires Meal and Rest Breaks

  • Meal and rest breaks are required under Oregon BOLI law.
  • Many states abide by the federal legislation, which does not mandate meal or rest breaks. However, it does mandate that employers cover the cost of any permitted brief breaks as well as the total amount of time an employee works, regardless of whether they are eating during that time.
  • Certain states mandate rest or food breaks. One of the few states that mandates businesses give both kinds of breaks is Oregon.

Meal Breaks (BOLI Break Laws)

Employees who work six hours or more a day are entitled to a 30-minute meal break from their employers in Oregon. If the employee is released from all responsibilities, this break may not be paid. If the worker cannot be released from all responsibilities, the company has to give them paid time off for meals.

If an employer can demonstrate that a shorter meal break (of at least 20 minutes) is customary or the industry norm, then they may provide it. The shorter break, though, has to be compensated.

Meal breaks must be taken between the second and fifth hours of a shift for workers who put in seven hours or less. The break must occur between the third and sixth hours of the shift for workers who put in more than seven hours.

Rest Breaks

In Oregon, workers are entitled to a paid ten-minute break for every four hours worked, or a significant portion of those hours. If at all possible, the break should occur about in the center of the workday. This rest break needs to be taken independently from the previously mentioned eating interval.

It is not possible to minimize the total number of hours worked by adding the break time to the lunch period or taking it away from the start or finish of the employee’s workday.

Certain adult employees who work alone in retail or service establishments and serve the public are exempt from the requirement that their employers give paid rest periods. These workers must, nonetheless, be given the chance to use the restroom. For a maximum of 18 months following the child’s birth, Oregon employers are also required to provide nursing employees a reasonable break during which they can express milk as needed.

For more information, please email at BOLI_help@boli.oregon.gov.


What is Oregon law on breaks at work?

Oregon law mandates employers to provide at least ten minutes of rest time for every four-hour work period, paid for by the employer. This includes meal times, ensuring they do not overlap, and must be provided for all segments of work.

Are the rest and meal period rules different for minors?

Minors under 18 are subject to different restrictions, with exceptions for lunch periods only applicable to juveniles aged 16-17. Employees aged 14-15 are not affected, as they are expected to receive the necessary meal time regardless of their employment. Rest times for children have increased from ten minutes to fifteen minutes.

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