New Rest and Meal Periods Rule Announced

January, 2009

On January 12, 2009, the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) announced a new rule implementing changes to the rest and meal period regulations.  The new rule retains the basic requirements that employees who work shifts of longer than six hours are provided an uninterrupted and unpaid 30-minute meal period, but clarifies that an employer who does not provide an employee with an uninterrupted 30-minute meal period must show 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 new rule increases protection for employees and sets a clear burden on employers to prove why providing a full meal period and total relief from duty creates an undue hardship.  Even if the main provisions cannot be met, the employer must still provide employees adequate periods in which to rest and consume a meal without a deduction from the employee’s pay.  While the main provisions of this rule are effective immediately, employers claiming an undue hardship exemption will be required to provide employees with notice on a form developed by BOLI beginning March 16, 2009.  Notices that comply with these requirements are available upon request from BOLI.

If you have questions about the new requirements, including if you are unsure if your rest and meal period policy or practices are in compliance, please contact Cascade for assistance.


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