Automatic deductions for meal breaks and the law – what you need to know.

Lunch breaks are an essential part of most employees’ work days. However, many employers do not properly compensate employees for this time. When a lunch break becomes interrupted for any job-related duty, no matter how short the interruption lasts, the employee must be paid for the entire lunch break.

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. If any work activity is performed, the meal doesn’t count as a lunch break and remains paid time.

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 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 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.

If you are an hourly employee and you have questions or concerns about being paid properly when working through your lunch period, give us a call.  We look forward to discussing your concerns with you.  Contact us at 614-221-4221.

(Advertising Material:  This Notice is for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice).

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