By Rights... Answers to Your Human Rights Questions

Column 25

In this column:

  • Must Full-Time Employees Get Paid Breaks?
  • College Student Seeks Disability Accommodation

Must Full-Time Employees Get Paid Breaks?

Is an employer required by law to give full-time employees any paid breaks?

The Commissioner says:

Minnesota law requires employers to provide restroom time and sufficient time to eat a meal. If the break is less than 20 minutes in duration, it must be counted as hours worked. Time to use the nearest restroom must be provided within each four consecutive hours of work. Meal time applies to employees who work eight or more consecutive hours. State laws covering breaks, overtime, leave, and related issues are enforced by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. You can find more information on their web site at

College Student Seeks Disability Accommodation

I am a student at a state university. I have a degenerative disease in my spine, which makes it difficult to remain in the same position for more than 20 minutes. I have requested assistance from the college's disability office -- an office-type chair, which would allow me to move around and take the pressure off my spine. Yesterday I was told that they have a table, but there is no funding for an office chair. Is this an acceptable answer, considering all the chairs floating around different campus buildings, and high tuition costs?

The Commissioner says:

Whether your college has an obligation to provide you with an appropriate chair as a reasonable accommodation for a disability depends upon the facts in this individual case. There are several issues here. First, to be entitled an accommodation, you would need to be able to show that your medical condition indeed rises to the level of a disability, or that you are regarded as disabled. The state Human Rights Act defines a disability as a physical or mental condition that "materially" interferes with a major life activity -- not every medical condition meets that test. If you do have a disability, you would be entitled to an accommodation, as long as the accommodation did not result in an "undue hardship" for the college. It's also worth noting that a person requesting an accommodation would not necessarily be entitled to the one he or she might prefer or consider ideal -- only to one that is effective. If you would like to pursue this further, please contact our intake unit at 651-296-5663 or 1-800-657-3704.

The answers in these columns are not intended as legal advice. The Department of Human Rights does not make a judgment on any case without carefully examining all the facts.

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