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Department of Labor

Meal Period Guidelines

New York State has rules that govern the time allowed for workers to eat during their shift on the job.  You can choose to read the full text of the law or our interpretation below.

Meal Period Guidelines - Section 162 of the New York State Labor Law  

Labor Department Interpretation

As we administer this statute, the Department applies these interpretations and guidelines.

Which Employees Does This Rule Cover?

Section 162 applies to every "person" in any establishment or occupation covered by the Labor Law. This includes all categories of workers:

  • Blue collar
  • White collar
  • Management

Do you allow Shorter Meal Periods?

30-minute minimum

We will permit employers to offer a shorter meal period of at least 30 minutes:

  • Without application by the employer
  • Only if it causes no hardship to employees

20-minute minimum

Employers may offer a meal period of at least 20 minutes:

  • ONLY in special or unusual cases
  • After we investigate
  • With the issue of a special DOL permit

Other Special Cases

One-Employee Shift

In some cases, it is customary for the employee to eat on the job without being relieved. This applies where:

  • Only one person is on duty
  • There is only one person in a specific occupation

If the employee volunteers to accept this arrangement, the Department of Labor will accept these special situations as compliance with Section 162. However, an employer must offer an uninterrupted meal period to every employee who asks for one.

We cannot anticipate all possible meal period questions.  Thus, these "Guidelines" may not cover all situations. For questions or guidance, contact the nearest office of the Division of Labor Standards.


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