Lunch breaks are an essential part of most employees’ work days. However, many employers do not properly compensate employees for this time. Although the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to provide breaks or meal periods to workers, specific rules apply to employers who choose to do so. Employees must be paid for breaks lasting 20 minutes or less. Employers may deduct pay for meal periods only if the break takes 30 minutes or more, so long as the employee is completely free from job duties during this time. When a meal break becomes interrupted for any job-related duty, no matter how short the interruption lasts, the employee must be paid for the entire break.
Using “automatic deduction policies” as a shortcut around the FLSA’s requirements
Employers can run into trouble by implementing “automatic deduction policies” as a shortcut around the FLSA’s requirements. Rather than have employees clock in and clock out for meal breaks, many employers will automatically deduct the break time from employees’ hours each day. The problem with this practice is that wages often go unpaid because it does not take into account any work performed during a lunch break—whether that is an employee working straight through their lunch, answering a quick phone call or email from a supervisor during a break, or other interruptions during the break because of any other work-related duties.
Over the past few years, numerous class and collective actions have been filed alleging that employers have maintained these company-wide automatic deduction policies, even though employees never took a full uninterrupted meal break. If you feel that you are not being properly paid wages you have earned, call us for a free consultation at 1-866-411-5576. You may have a viable claim and we can help you determine the best course of action after thorough consideration of your situation.