Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), your employer is not required to give you meal and rest breaks. However, many state laws require employers to give their employees breaks. Regardless, it is customary for employers to give their employees meal and rest breaks periodically during any particular shift.
Rest periods of a short duration (i.e. 5-20 minutes, approximately) generally must be paid for by the employer, and such time should be counted as hours worked. Employers generally do not have to compensate their employees for breaks of longer than 20 minutes, if during that time, the employee is completely relieved of his or her duties. However, if the employee is called to duty prior to the break time’s expiration, that time may be compensable under state and/or federal law.
Likewise, “bona fide” meal periods are generally not considered to be work time. Typically, meal periods are for periods of 30 minutes or longer, although exceptions may apply. Again, if the employee is not able to use that time for his or her benefit, the meal period may be compensable under state and/or federal law.
In determining whether an employee was properly relieved from duty, the employer must determine whether that meal or rest time was spent primarily for the benefit of the employee. If for example, a receptionist is required to remain at her desk for her lunch period, but otherwise is generally free from interruption, the Court may find that the meal period is not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act. However, if the receptionist normally is required to answer calls and perform other job-related duties during her meal period, that time may be compensable.
For help determining whether meal and rest periods are properly compensable under state and/or federal law, you should consult an experienced wage and hour attorney for a case evaluation. Brady & Associates offers free consultations by phone or online: call us at (913) 696-0925 or complete our online contact form. Based in Overland Park, we serve clients throughout Kansas and Missouri, as well as throughout the United States.