Recently, BOLI (Bureau of Labor and Industries) updated the state meal break regulations. The Oregon BOLI issued new regulations that food servers can opt to waive their unpaid meal breaks, but not their paid rest breaks. Tipped food service workers in Oregon who are over 18 years of age may opt out of their required 30-minute meal breaks if they like.
According to the new regulations, employers cannot require an employee to waive breaks, or force employees to do so. Either the employer or the employee can revoke the waiver at any time by written notice. However, the employee can be excused from taking the meal breaks if the employer has a signed, non-revoked waiver on file.
In addition, when it would be an undue hardship for an employee to be relieved from all work duties for the 30 minute meal break, employers are permitted to always waive the required meal breaks. If employers want to use the exception, they must issue a BOLI waiver to all affected employees by March 16, 2009.
The break must be longer than 20 minutes and shorter than 30 minutes. The employee must be relieved of all work duties during the breaks. However, the law does not affect the requirement that an employee must have 10 minute uninterrupted rest breaks for each 4-hour work period.
In the U.S., there are nineteen states requiring meal breaks for virtually all employees. Oregon is one of these states. California and Illinois are also included.