Do interns get breaks?
Today, you start your new internship. You’re excited, you’re tired. You can’t imagine how you’re going to remember the names of everyone in the office… It’s your typical first day.
But what exactly are you allowed to do? Do you take a lunch break with everyone else? Or does your status mean you eat at your desk? It seems like such an awkward question to ask. You don’t want to be the “newbie” of the office who doesn’t know the procedures. What are the policies for break times, anyway?
Meal and Rest Break Laws: What Employers Need to Know
Interns: Employment Laws and Break Times
There are no federal laws that require employers to allow employees to take breaks or work meals.
However, many states have laws specifically addressing meal and rest breaks. Really, though, it comes down to whether the internship is paid or not. Paid interns generally have the same rights as regular employees, which would entitle them to meal and rest breaks as applicable.
For example, regarding meal breaks, they are required for employees working 7 ½ hours or more in:
- Connecticut and Delaware, when a 30-minute meal break must be taken after the first two hours of work and before the last two
- Illinois, with a 20-minute meal break no later than 5 hours after starting work. A second meal break is required for each continuous 7 ½ hours worked
Illinois also has an industry-specific meal break law for hotel room attendants in counties with a population of more than 3 million.
While many states have meal break laws, fewer have requirements for employers regarding rest breaks.
In a some states, it’s 10 minutes for every 4 hours worked:
Other states, including Minnesota and Vermont, require reasonable time to eat or use the restroom, while Maryland has a law for retail employees — 15 minutes for every 4-6 hours worked.
Employers can set an employee break policy in their employee handbook or they can provide breaks on an informal basis with no predefined rest periods.
Know Your Rights
Back to your first day. If your HR rep, boss, or mentor hasn’t yet told you about your company’s break policies, take a deep breath. Look through the employee handbook or corporate website for guidance. Ask your desk-mate what she usually does for lunch.
Just because you’re an intern, you likely have the same rights as other employees regarding breaks.