June 20, 2003
STATEMENT OF OBJECTIONS TO HOUSE BILL NO. 29
State of Hawaii
Pursuant to Section 16 of Article III of the Constitution of the State of Hawaii, I am returning herewith, without my approval, House Bill No. 29, entitled "A Bill for an Act Relating to Meal Breaks."
The purpose of this bill is to require employers to provide employees with at least a thirty-minute meal break after more than eight hours of work, except when the employer is: (1) subject to a collective bargaining agreement that expressly provides for employee meal breaks; (2) a carrier of passengers or property by motor vehicle or a power generating utility regulated under chapter 269, Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS); or (3) the operator of a continuously operating facility that is regulated by environmental permits.
The impetus for the bill was the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission's concern that, because state law does not require a meal period or other break, enforcing section 378-10, HRS, would be problematic. This law, enacted in 1999, prohibits an employer from preventing an employee from expressing breast milk during any meal or other break period required by law or by a collective bargaining agreement. The Commission, however, has never received a complaint on this issue.
This bill also provides that no employer shall prohibit an employee from expressing breast milk during any meal break or other break that is required by law, required by a collective bargaining agreement, or provided by the employer on a voluntary basis. In addition, an employer is prohibited from discriminating against an employee for expressing milk during the meal break or any other break.
This bill is objectionable because it applies only to small businesses that do not engage in business outside of Hawaii. Chapter 387, Hawaii Revised Statutes, which this bill would amend, does not cover employers subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Acts (i.e., employers with gross receipts of $500,000 or more and those engaged in interstate commerce).
In short, there has been no demonstrated need for this bill. In those cases where employees work more than eight hours at a time, the employee and employer should have the flexibility to structure meal and other breaks in ways that make sense under the circumstances, rather than to have breaks mandated by law. In sum, it makes no sense to burden businesses in Hawaii with a new regulation of this kind in the absence of a demonstrated need. It makes even less sense to target only small, local businesses.
For the foregoing reasons, I am returning House Bill No. 29 without my approval.
Governor of Hawaii