September 21, 2020
DOL Fills in FLSA Regulatory Gap
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations address when rest breaks and meal periods must be paid. The regulations define a rest break as one that is between “5 minutes and about 20 minutes.” Rest breaks “must be counted as hours worked.” (See 785.18 & 785.19)
The regulations then define a meal period as, “Ordinarily 30 minutes or more is long enough for a bona fide meal period. A shorter period may be long enough under special conditions.” The regulations explain that “Bona fide meal periods are not worktime.”
So, what if an employee takes a break of 25 minutes and is completely relieved of performing any work during that time? The definition of a meal period infers that it could be unpaid. But, such was not the outcome as announced in a recent U.S. Department of Labor headline. “Employers must provide a minimum of 30 minutes for a bona fide meal break if they intend to deduct the time from an employee’s time records,” the Department announced.
Lessons Learned? Review your meal and rest period policies and your payroll practices. If you are not paying your non-exempt employees for breaks of less than 30 minutes, you may want to consult with your company’s legal counsel and reconsider that practice.