Breaks and Meal Periods

Break and meal period requirements in Wisconsin.

Are breaks required?

Employees under 18 years of age may not work longer than six consecutive hours without receiving at least a 30-minute duty free meal period. Breaks of shorter duration are not required, but – of course – may be offered.

Wisconsin law does not require that employers provide brief rest periods, coffee breaks, or meal periods to adult employees, although the Department recommends that employers do so.

Employers are encouraged, but not required, to provide breaks of at least 30 minutes in duration at times reasonably close to the usual meal period. Such matters are to be determined directly between the employer and the employee.

Is the break paid time?

For employees of any age, if the employer provides breaks of less than 30 consecutive minutes in duration, the break time is counted as work time.

Employers must pay employees for "on duty" meal periods. An "on duty" meal period is one where the worker is not provided at least 30 consecutive minutes free from work, or where the worker is not free to leave the employer's premises. Employers may not deduct from a worker's wages for authorized breaks of less than 30 consecutive minutes.

If the break is at least 30 consecutive minutes and the employee is completely relieved of duty and free to leave the premises, the break time does not need to be paid.

Can an employer require an employee to take a break?

Yes. Employers have the ability to schedule employees as they see fit. Studies have shown that breaks increase productivity and stimulate mental focus.

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