Human Resources

Meal periods and rest periods

Washington state law and regulations require employers to provide meal and rest periods for all overtime-eligible employees, including staff and student employees, and include specific requirements for certain health care facility employees. University departments are responsible for complying with state law and UW labor contracts that specifically vary from or supersede the rules regarding providing meal and rest periods.

State and federal laws regarding meal and rest periods do not apply to overtime-exempt employees.

Meal periods and rest periods for overtime-eligible employees

Meal periods – unpaid meal periods

Overtime-eligible employees working more than five consecutive hours in a work shift are entitled to an unpaid meal period of at least thirty minutes, starting between the second and fifth hour of their work shift.
Employees working three or more hours longer than their scheduled shift are entitled to at least one additional unpaid thirty-minute meal period prior to or during the overtime period.

Employees can only be required to remain on the premises or work site during their meal period if they are completely free from work duties. If an employee is free from all duties during their entire meal period, it is not considered hours worked and is not a paid meal period.

Meal periods – paid meal periods

Employees must be paid for meal periods if they are:

  • Required to remain on duty;
  • Required to remain on-call on the premises or at the work site, even if they are not called back to duty; or
  • Called back to work, interrupting the meal period.

If work is performed during a meal period, it is considered hours worked when calculating paid sick time off and overtime.

Additional requirements for certain medical centers employees are described below.

Rest periods

Overtime-eligible employees are entitled to a paid rest period of at least ten minutes for every four hours of working time. Contract covered employees should check their collective bargaining agreement for additional paid rest period provisions.

Rest periods are to be scheduled as near as possible to the midpoint of the work period. No employee can be required to work more than three hours without a rest period. Where the nature of work allows employees to take intermittent rest periods equal to ten minutes for each four hours worked, scheduled rest periods are not required.

Additional requirements for certain medical centers employees are described below.

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Meal periods and rest periods for medical centers employees

Consistent with RCW 49.12.480, in addition to providing employees with meal and rest periods as required by law, employees in certain health care job classes at the medical centers are entitled to uninterrupted scheduled rest periods during each work period if they are:

  • A registered nurse, nursing assistant certified (hospital assistant/patient care technician), surgical technologist, diagnostic radiologic technologist, cardiovascular invasive specialist, or respiratory care practitioner; and
  • FLSA nonexempt or covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

Meal and rest periods will not be interrupted except under the following circumstances:

  1. An unforeseeable emergency circumstance as defined in RCW 49.28.130; or
  2. A clinical circumstance, as determined by the employer or employee, that may lead to a significant adverse effect on the patient’s condition:
    1. Without the knowledge, specific skill, or ability of the employee on break; or
    2. Due to an unforeseen or unavoidable event relating to patient care delivery requiring immediate action that could not be planned for by the employer.

If a rest period is interrupted before 10 minutes, another uninterrupted 10 minute rest period will be provided at the earliest reasonable time to ensure a covered employee receives at least a 10 minute rest. All covered employees working at the medical centers should notify the charge nurse or supervisor of any potential for missed or interrupted rest periods, and must document the lack of any rest period in Kronos and the Exception Log or green sheet per medical centers practice.


WAC 296-129-092

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