So, what is Colorado’s law on meal breaks? Actually, its quite similar to California’s. Colorado Minimum Wage Order Number 28 which went into effect January 1, 2012, applies to private sector employers and employees in Colorado in the following 4 industries: retail and service, commercial support service, food and beverage, and health and medical (however, it does not apply to public sector employers, independent contractors, construction, manufacturing, wholesale). The regulation states that:
- Employees shall be entitled to an uninterrupted and “duty free” meal period of at least a thirty minute duration when the scheduled work shift exceeds five consecutive hours of work.
- Employees shall be permitted to fully consume a meal of choice “on the job” and be fully compensated for the “on-duty” meal period without any loss of time or compensation.
- When the nature of the business activity or other circumstances exist that makes an uninterrupted meal period impractical, the employee shall be permitted to consume an “on- duty” meal while performing duties.
- The employees must be completely relieved of all duties and permitted to pursue personal activities to qualify as a non-work, uncompensated period of time.
Colorado Minimum Wage Order Number 28 is silent on whether employees are permitted to work on their break, and Colorado courts have yet to address the issue.
Based on the language above however, it is reasonable to infer that an employer has fulfilled its obligation once it has “completely relieved [the employee] of all duties and [has been] permitted to peruse personal activities to qualify as a non-work, uncompensated period of time.” If an employee decides to work on their break, it would be up to them. The employer has fulfilled its obligation in providing the break. To avoid confusion and limit exposure however, it is a good idea for employers to have a detailed policy on employee meal breaks and well trained managers that ensure such policies are followed.
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