Ask the Legal: Do employers have to pay employees for smoke breaks?

Federal law does not require that employers give employees breaks; however, it does regulate whether employees must be paid for breaks. Since most workplaces are smoke-free now, employees are required to use designated smoking areas which means leaving the office and sometimes even the premises. Typically, employers give employees 10-15 minute smoke breaks during the day. The law requires employers to pay eligible employees for all breaks of twenty or less minutes. Therefore, the short smoke breaks are compensable. This means that they are counted as hours worked for the purpose of overtime. For employers who choose to give their employees smoke breaks, it is important that the amount of time is clearly defined so that any unauthorized extension of the break need not be counted as hours worked.

As appeared in:  Pittsburgh Business Times, 7/18/2014

Terri Imbarlina Patak