The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) issued a revised regulation earlier this week on employees’ meal breaks which will be of interest to many smaller employers. 

The revised regulation, which is effective as of January 12, 2009, retains the basic requirement that employees normally be provided with a 30-minute, unpaid meal period in which they are relieved of all duties (for shifts longer than 6 hours).  However, it adds additional options for employers who do not provide the full 30-minute meal period and/or relieve an employee completely from duty (such as when the employee remains on-call).

Under the new regulation, an employer is not required to provide an employee with a 30-minute meal period in which the employee is relieved of all duties if the employer can demonstrate that:

  1.  failure to provide a meal period was caused by unforeseeable equipment failures, acts of nature or other exceptional and unanticipated circumstances that only rarely and temporarily preclude the provision of a meal period;
  2. industry practice or custom has established a paid meal period of less than 30 minutes (but no less than 20 minutes) during which employees are relieved of all duties; or
  3. providing a 30-minute, unpaid meal period where the employee is relieved of all duties would impose an “undue hardship” on the operation of the employer’s business (the regulations also provide guidance on what is an “undue hardship”). 

An employer that does not provide meal periods under the “undue hardship” exception must comply with two additional requirements: (a) the employer must also provide the employee adequate periods in which to rest, consume a meal, and use the restroom without deduction from the employee’s pay; and (b) the employer must first provide to each employee a notice provided by BOLI regarding rest and meal periods in the language used by the employer to communicate with the employee.  BOLI will make such notices available by March 16, 2009.


Want more information?  Click here to download BOLI’s  press release explaining the new regulations. Or click here to download the full text of the new regulation, including the definition of undue hardship.  Or, click here if you want BOLI’s full run-down of the law on rest and meal breaks in general.