Full-time employees in Nevada are generally entitled to a half-hour unpaid lunch break. But there are exceptions where employers are under no legal obligation to provide meal breaks, such as:
- the employer employs only one worker in a particular workplace;
- the employee waived lunch break rights through a collective bargaining agreement or on his/her own; or
- the Nevada Office of the Labor Commissioner specifically exempted the employer from providing meal breaks
Employees who are being forced to work through what should be their lunch break have three legal options:
- filing a complaint with the Labor Commissioner, which will warn the employer to provide lunch breaks,
- filing a Nevada wage and hour claim with Labor Commissioner to recover wages for the time worked during lunch breaks, and/or
- bringing a civil lawsuit for any unpaid wages or Nevada overtime pay the employee accrued for working through a lunch break
In this article, our Las Vegas Nevada employment law attorneys discuss:
- 1. Lunch break laws
- 2. Exceptions to lunch break laws
- 3. Legal actions for lunch breaks
Nevada employees are entitled to a minimum 30-minute meal period under state law if:
- the employer has at least two employees in a particular location, and
- the employees work at least an eight (8)-hour shift
Example: Jeffrey employs one full-time worker and one part-time worker at his store. The full-timer comes in at 8 a.m. and leaves at 5 p.m. The part-timer comes in at 8 a.m. but leaves by noon Since Jeffrey employs at least two people at his store, Nevada’s meal break laws apply to him. The full-timer is entitled to a half hour time off for lunch under Nevada law because he works at least eight straight hours. But since the part-timer works no more than four hours, he is not entitled to a 30-minute lunch break.
Note that employers are not required to pay employees for the 30 minutes they take off for lunch (or other meal). However, these unpaid meal breaks must be free of work duties (such as answering phones). Otherwise, these are not bona fide meal breaks and should be compensated by the regular rate of pay.1
Example: Betty works an eight-hour shift as a secretary and gets an unpaid half-hour period off for her lunch. However, her boss insists she remain at her desk during this half-hour to field any phone calls and walk-ins. Since Betty is still “on duty” during her 30-minute lunch, her boss is denying her a true meal break and is making her work that half-hour for free.
As discussed below in section 3, Betty in the above example has legal grounds to file a claim or sue since she is not being paid for the full number of hours she works.
Also note federal law does not require employers to give meal breaks to employees at all. Fortunately, employers in Nevada must follow Nevada law.2
1.1. Using paid rest break time to eat
Nevada law requires employers with at least two employees to provide paid 10-minute rest periods after three-and-a-half hours of work and again after seven continuous hours of work.3
Some employees choose to eat quickly during these paid mini-break periods instead of taking the unpaid half-hour lunch break. This strategy then allows them to leave one half-hour earlier without sacrificing any pay.
Learn more about Nevada rest break laws.
1.2. Meals paid by employers
Note that employers who provide meals can count those meals against an employee’s wage if the employee agrees to it. The costs of the meals may not exceed the following:4
Cost employers may deduct from wages in Nevada
Note that employees eligible for a half-hour meal break do not waive that break just because they accept meals from employers. Learn about Nevada minimum wage laws.
Employers are not required to provide employees with a 30-minute meal break in any of the following four situations:
- The employer employs only one worker in a particular location;
- The employee voluntary waives his/her right to the meal break;
- The employee agreed to forego meal breaks as part of a collective bargaining agreement; or
- The Labor Commission granted the employer an exemption after the employer showed that “business necessity” outweighs the necessity for a meal break5
Employees who believe that they are being wrongly denied a meal break should consult an employment law attorney to learn the law and discuss their options. Scroll down to the next section for more information.
Workers who are being denied a lunch break can seek redress through the following four steps:
- Filing a complaint
- Trying to reason with the employer,
- Filing a claim with the Nevada Labor Commissioner, or
- Filing a civil lawsuit for unpaid wages or overtime
Employees who are being denied lunch breaks can file a complaint online with the Nevada Labor Commissioner. The Commissioner may then send a warning letter to the employer instructing them to provide a half-hour unpaid lunch break to employees who work at least eight hours.
Employees who do not want back wages but merely want their lunch breaks should consider filing a complaint. Unlike wage claims discussed below in section 3.3, complaints may be filed anonymously. Therefore, employees who fear retaliation for complaining often rely on complaints to get the employer’s attention.6
Many employers are un-knowledgeable about labor laws and inadvertently deprive eligible workers of their meal breaks. Sometimes all it takes to fix the problem is talking rationally to the employer (or the Human Resources department) and asking for lunch breaks from now and for back wages for missed lunch breaks.
If the employer will not listen to reason, then the employee should explore the possibilities of filing a claim or bringing a lawsuit (as discussed below).
If an employee’s “good faith” effort to solve the meal break problem with the employer does not succeed, he/she can file a claim with the Nevada Office of the Labor Commissioner for unpaid wages for working during lunch breaks.
Filing a claim can usually be completed online through the Department of Labor’s claim for wages form. The Department’s purpose is to investigate labor dispute matters and possibly hold a hearing and hand down binding decisions.
Example: Benny is a full-time employee who has been forced to work through his half-hour unpaid lunch breaks for 100 weeks. Benny files a wage claim for overtime pay because working through what should have been his half-hour lunch break caused him to work 250 unpaid hours over the 100 weeks. The Labor Commissioner investigates the matter and then orders his employer to pay him overtime for the 250 hours he worked without pay during lunch.
Note that there is a two (2) year deadline after the non-payment of wages to file a wage claim. Employees should consider consulting with an attorney throughout this process to ensure that they are following proper procedures and sufficiently arguing their case.
Another option employees have who are being denied a lunch break is to sue the employer for unpaid wages: If the employer made the employee work through his/her unpaid half-hour lunch, then the employee is entitled to wages for that half hour. The employee may even be entitled to sue for overtime pay if the employee ended up working more than 40 hours a week or 8 hours a day.7
Note that there is a two (2) year statute of limitations to bring a civil lawsuit for unpaid wages in labor dispute cases. So once an employer underpays an employee, he/she has only two years to file suit.8
Filing a lawsuit is always a complicated procedure, which is why many elect to try to resolve the matter privately or through filing a claim with the Labor Commissioner. But lawsuits can be very effective and possibly very lucrative. An experienced labor law attorney can help the employee decide which is the best legal route to pursue.
Call a Nevada labor law attorney…
Are you being deprived of a meal break in Nevada? Contact our Las Vegas labor law lawyers for a free consultation. We may be able to file a claim to force your employer to provide you a lunch break. Or we can file a lawsuit to recover all the money you were denied by working for free during what should have been your lunch break.
Work in California? See our article on California lunch break laws.
- NRS 608.019. Periods for meals and rest. 1. An employer shall not employ an employee for a continuous period of 8 hours without permitting the employee to have a meal period of at least one-half hour. No period of less than 30 minutes interrupts a continuous period of work for the purposes of this subsection. 2. Every employer shall authorize and permit all his or her employees to take rest periods, which, insofar as practicable, shall be in the middle of each work period. The duration of the rest periods shall be based on the total hours worked daily at the rate of 10 minutes for each 4 hours or major fraction thereof. Rest periods need not be authorized however for employees whose total daily work time is less than 3 and one-half hours. Authorized rest periods shall be counted as hours worked, for which there shall be no deduction from wages. 3. This section does not apply to: (a) Situations where only one person is employed at a particular place of employment. (b) Employees included within the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement. 4. An employer may apply to the Labor Commissioner for an exemption from providing to all or to one or more defined categories of his or her employees one or more of the benefits conferred by this section. The Labor Commissioner may grant the exemption if the Labor Commissioner believes the employer has shown sufficient evidence that business necessity precludes providing such benefits. Any exemption so granted shall apply to members of either sex. 5. The Labor Commissioner may by regulation exempt a defined category of employers from providing to all or to one or more defined categories of their employees one or more of the benefits conferred by this section, upon the Labor Commissioner’s own motion or upon the application of an association of employers. Each such application shall be considered at a hearing and may be granted if the Labor Commissioner finds that business necessity precludes providing that particular benefit or benefits to the employees affected. Any exemption so granted shall apply to members of either sex.
- Breaks and Meal Periods, U.S. Department of Labor.
- NRS 608.019.
- Rules To Be Observed By Employers, Nevada Department of Labor.
- NAC 608.145; NRS 608.019.
- Complaints, Nevada Office of the Labor Commissioner.
- NRS 608.016; NRS 608.018.
- See NRS 608.260.