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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Breaks

I just posted a blog about being changed from exempt to non-exempt. The same thing happened to me after working with my employer for over a year. I am an administrative assistant and during the summer months, I work longer hours. They really don’t want me to have overtime, but do pay it. My question is…do I have to take at least a 30 minute break every day? My HR Director (who doesn’t have a HR degree) told me that under the FLSA law I have to take one. In my position, most of the time I do not have time for breaks and I eat my lunch at my desk while I am working.

Under FLSA? No.
The FLSA does not require breaks or meal periods be given to workers. Some states may have requirements for breaks or meal periods. If you work in a state which does not require breaks or meal periods, these benefits are a matter of agreement between the employer and the employee (or the employee's representative).

Under your state law? Maybe. I've worked in states where it was required and boy oh boy was that a tough one to enforce. Many workers (myself included) would rather forgo an unpaid lunch break and leave an half hour early. Check it out.

What is definitely required is that they pay you for all time worked. If you are working while eating at your desk they must pay you. They must pay you for all overtime, whether authorized or not. However, they can also fire you for working unauthorized overtime (after they pay you for it).

However, it is certainly within your manager's discretion or company policy to require you to clock out for a 30 minute break. Just make sure--if you aren't being paid, don't work.

2 comments:

Michael Moore said...

"Off the Clock" work is one of the Special Intitiative areas targeted for compliance audits by the Department of Labor. The DOL website has a lot of information including industry based Fact Sheets noting areas of noncompliance like working through lunch. See http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/offtheclock/index.htm

It seems the HR department is just following the law.

Teri said...

Whose decision is it to work at your desk? If it is the employer's, then they are not relieving you of duties and cannot force you to be unpaid for that time.

If you are choosing to work at your desk and eat lunch, and they want you to have an unpaid lunch, they should shoo you out the door and make sure you don't come back five minutes early.

I had to research this recently and it appears that it is DOL policy that a lunch break has to be at least 30 minutes to be unpaid.