WORK IS OUR JOB

Employment Law, Advice & Litigation, Mediations & Arbitrations, Workplace Investigations

Contact Us Today

Work Breaks

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal law establishing and regulating labor standards, does not require covered employers to give meals or rest breaks to covered employees. [1] Florida law does not impose a requirement, either. However, many employers voluntarily provide breaks to employees as a matter of policy or contract,[2] recognizing the need for employees to eat and rest during the workday and improve their working environment. Although employers may modify or revoke their break policies at any time, if they have them, they must apply them evenly to all employees.

UntitledRest breaks vs. meal breaks

Short rest breaks are considered hours worked and must be paid. However, meal breaks are typically unpaid. Specifically, a “bona fide” meal break is an unpaid time designated for an employee to eat a meal. During this time, the employee is freed from all work duties. Under the FLSA, meal breaks are generally not considered compensable hours worked, as long as the employee is fully relieved from work for the purpose of eating a meal, and the time afforded for the break is 30 minutes of more (although this time can be shorter or longer, depending on the work and employer’s policy.)

Payment during breaks

Payment for hours worked

Although the FLSA does not require employers to provide meal or rest breaks, it does require employees to be paid for “hours worked.”[3] Therefore, if a covered employee must work during a meal break, this time must be compensated. For example, a receptionist who eats lunch at her desk to cover the phones, tend to customers, or wait for deliveries during lunch time must be paid for that time. So does any other employee who works during a meal break. However, merely being “on call” during a meal period is not sufficient to require meal breaks to be included as FLSA hours worked.[4]

As mentioned above, employers must pay employees for short breaks (generally ranging from 5 to 20 minutes) during the workday, even if employees do not work during this time.

Wage payment must follow applicable overtime[5] and minimum wage[6] rules.

Exclusions from payment

If a covered employee extends the break time beyond the time approved by the employer, the employer is not required to provide payment for the additional time, if the employer has notified the employee that:

  1. The authorized break must not extend beyond a specified time;
  2. The extension of time is contrary to the employer’s rules; and
  3. The extension will result in a punishment.

The employer may deduct the excess time from the employee’s hours worked only if the above conditions are met.

In addition, the employer may deduct time taken by an employee for the purpose of expressing breast milk, unless the employer has a break policy in place, and the employee used a paid short break to express milk. [7]

Best Practices

Employers who choose to provide breaks to employees should develop sound break policies and implement them equally and consistently with all employees. Employees who believe they have not been compensated properly for meal, rest, or nursing breaks should consult a knowledgeable attorney to evaluate their claim and, if necessary, provide legal representation to prosecute the claim and recover any wages due.

Whether you are an employer, employee, or independent contractor, the Orlando employment law attorneys of Burruezo & Burruezo can assist you in assessing a work break situation and offer competent legal representation, if necessary. Click here to contact an attorney now.

[1] See FLSA “Enterprise” and “Individual” Coverage blog article for information on what employers and what employees are covered under FLSA.
[2] For example, some employers provide breaks as part of a collective bargaining agreement.
[3] See Hours Worked blog article for more information.
[4] See Hours Worked blog article for more information.
[5] See Overtime Pay blog article for additional information.
[6] See Minimum Wage blog article for additional information.
[7] Although, under the FLSA, employers must offer breaks to nursing mothers to express milk, they do not need to be paid breaks. See Nursing Mothers in the Workplace blog article for more information.

The Blogs on Burruezo & Burruezo's website are made available only for educational purposes and to give readers/viewers general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice (or any legal advice). By using this blog, readers/viewers understand that there is no attorney client relationship between reader/viewer and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in the reader/viewer's state or jurisdiction. This blog is not published for advertising or solicitation purposes. Regardless, the hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements.

HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT.

CONTACT US TODAY.