If an employee has time between shifts and is free to use the time as he wishes, the company does not have to pay the employee for the time. Federal law does not require an employer to provide a break between shifts, nor does it limit the amount of time a company can require an employee to work, provided the company compensates the employee properly. However, some states mandate additional pay or breaks for extended work periods. Regulated industries that have safety-sensitive positions, such as truck drivers and pilots, restrict the number of consecutive hours employees in certain jobs can work.

Providing Breaks

There is no federal law that requires an employer to provide breaks of any kind to employees. Only eight states -- California, Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington -- require companies to provide a rest break to employees, and fewer than half the states require employers to provide a lunch break to workers. However, if a company provides short breaks of five to 20 minutes, it must pay employees while they are on break. A company does not have to pay an employee on a lunch break that lasts at least 30 minutes. Many states have different rules for workers who are under age 18.

On-Call Employees

If an employee has a break between shifts, the company is only obligated to pay the employee for the break time if the employee is on call. If an employee is required to stay on company premises during the break between shifts, or the employee is not free to spend the time as she wishes, she is considered on call, even if she's not performing any work. A company must pay an on-call employee for the hours during which she cannot spend the time as she pleases.


The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay at least a minimum wage for all hours worked and time and a half for each hour over 40 that an employee works in a week. Some states require additional compensation when employees work for an extended period. For example, in California, if an employee works more than eight hours in a day, he receives time and a half for hours nine through 12 and double time for any hours over 12. In New York, if an employee works more than 10 hours in a day, an employer must pay the employee for one additional hour at minimum wage.

Regulated Industries

Some industries have regulations that require breaks between shifts for certain job categories. For example, commercial pilots must rest a minimum of 10 hours before their duty, which cannot exceed 10 hours if two pilots are present and eight hours if only one pilot is present. Property-carrying truck drivers can drive at most 11 hours in a day and must rest for 10 hours between shifts. They are also required to take a break of at least 30 minutes after driving eight consecutive hours.