Is Your Employer Required to Give You a Break?
What the law says about meal and rest breaks
Today is the first day of your new job! You’re excited to get started and clock in using your company’s time system on your computer. A few hours later, you take a quick rest room break. When you get back to your desk, you realize the system automatically clocked you out even though you were gone less than five minutes.
Later, when you receive your paycheck, you realize that your restroom break was deducted from your pay.
Is that even legal?
Five minutes here and there can add up, possibly causing you to be paid less than minimum wage and affecting your right to overtime compensation.
Let’s discuss what meal and rest breaks you’re entitled to during your work day and how your pay— and your rights—are protected by the law.
Legal parameters for breaks
Federal labor laws do not provide most employees with the right to meal or rest breaks. However, some states, including New York, require meal breaks for many employees. Local laws may also require such breaks.
If multiple laws apply, your employer must follow the law that provides the most benefit to you, the employee.
If an employer does provide breaks, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulates the length of the breaks, whether you are required to punch out, and whether the breaks are compensated.
Should you be paid when you take a break?
Breaks generally consist of two types: rest breaks and meal breaks.
The FLSA generally requires that rest breaks of five to 20 minutes must be compensated. That’s important because it means your pay cannot be docked if you use the rest room or get a drink of water.
Employers cannot require you to clock out for a break of less than 20 minutes, which means these breaks are included in your paid hours and applied toward overtime calculations.
Under the FLSA, an employer is not required to pay you for a meal break that lasts 30 minutes or more. That means your employer can require you to clock out when you go to lunch or dinner.
However, all work must stop while you’re on an uncompensated meal break.
An employer cannot require you to eat at your desk while you continue to answer phones or perform any other type of work while you are on an unpaid meal break. This can also include passive work, such as waiting for a delivery.
Why meal and rest breaks are important
In addition to your well-being, meal and rest breaks impact your paycheck and your rights.
Remember, the law protects your right to be compensated correctly. If you have concerns about how your paycheck is affected by rest and meal breaks, speak with an experienced legal professional.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.xx