When you are on the clock for extended periods of time in the Wisconsin workplace, having a set time to sit, relax and enjoy a meal can be a boon. Though there are some federal laws regarding breaks, found under the Fair Labor Standards Act, but for the most part this area is left to the state. There are specific regulations from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development that ensure employees’ rights in this regard. These regulations are age-specific.
If you are under 18 years of age and are in the workforce, your employer is required to provide at least one half-hour break for every six hours you are on the clock. This break is to be unpaid and duty free. Any other breaks offered to you are done so at the discretion of your employer and are not required by state law.
If you are over the age of 18, the requirements for breaks are no longer applicable. Employers have the option to offer a break, but they are not mandatory. If your employer does give you a break and it is under half an hour, they must pay you for that time. This is considered an “on duty” meal period. The DWD recommends short breaks be given, but they are not required. In addition, meal breaks are optional by highly encouraged.
If you were given short breaks by your employer, but were not paid for them, you may be entitled to compensation. An employment law attorney may be able to provide more information on the matter.