You should know your rights when your employer does not provide you with proper rest breaks. We have put together a simple primer on Washington’s rest break laws. Note that this is general information about Washington’s rest break laws; each case has unique facts which may make a difference when applying the law. Laws also change over time, so make sure to review or check with a lawyer to make sure you have the most up to date information.
Length and Frequency of a Rest Break
Washington employment laws require Employers to provide employees with a 10 minute paid rest break every four hours. The rest break must happen no later than the 3rd hour of work.
Scheduling Rest Breaks
Employers do not need to schedule rest breaks for employees. But employers do need to affirmatively promote meaningful break time. Employers need to make sure employees are taking rest breaks. Taking 10 one-minute breaks is probably not meaningful break time. Its not enough for an employer to tell an employee to take a break if they are able to. Often, employees are overworked or the workplace is understaffed and therefore employees cannot take breaks. The employer is in control of the workplace and must make sure that its employees are taking rest breaks as required by law.
Are Rest Breaks Voluntary?
Rest breaks are mandatory. Employees cannot waive their right to take rest breaks. Employers shouldn’t pressure employees into missing rest breaks.
What is a Rest Break?
A rest break is a time for personal rest and relaxation. The employer must completely relieve the employee is of all work duties. An employer can require you to stay on the premises, but the employee must be free from all work duties.
Should I get Paid for Rest Breaks?
Yes! An employer must pay for a 10-minute rest break for every four hours of work. If you work on piece rate basis, then you must be paid separately for rest breaks. For example, if you are paid per mile or paid for a unit of production (think as if being paid for a basket of berries picked, or per square foot of install).