Aren’t We Supposed To Get Breaks?

by Dr. Arcelita Imasa

I work 8 hours, five days a week most weeks. My manager says we can take a break for five to ten minutes when we aren’t busy. Some days that’s okay but often, especially on weekends, I am not able to take a break. Aren’t we supposed to get at least one break over eight hours?
– From Reader

Dear Reader,

As shocking or unbelievable as it may seem, there is no Hawai’i law that requires rest or meal breaks for employees except children ages 14 or 15 after 5 consecutive hours of work or it is part of a union collective bargaining agreement.

Many states require a paid 10-minute break/rest period during each four work hours. However, if an employer offers breaks, they must pay employees for their break time. In other words, the break is part of our paid work time.

We, of the Hawai’i Workers Center, think this needs to change—all workers should get breaks. Not only is it fair, but exhausted workers do not make for good workers.

In this year’s state legislative session, State Representative Sonny Ganaden, (D) Kalihi, Kalihi Kai, Ke’ehi Lagoon, and Hickam Village, introduced legislation requiring breaks only for warehouse workers. The proposed legislation did not even get a hearing.

We hope Representative Ganaden will re-introduce his bill again next year but broaden it to include all workers. And, it deserves more than a hearing. It should become the law as it is in most of our neighboring states.

Send us your employment-related questions to us at We will be happy to address them in a future column.

Hawaii Workers Center

DR. ARCELITA IMASA is a practicing family physician and the secretary of the Hawaii Workers Center’s Executive Committee of the Board. She grew up in the Philippines before migrating to Hawaii with her family more than a decade ago.

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