Updated May 28, 2021, Rose H. Robbins, Esq.
Federal lunch break laws force employers to pay for all compensable time. Thus, working lunches and breaks over 20 minutes should be included for overtime calculations. The legal determination of what is “compensable” time under lunch and break labor laws under the Federal Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is a complex one and is best left to an experienced lawyer.
The following are 12 examples of typical violations of compensable time under the FLSA including violations for rest and meal breaks laws:
1.) What are the work break laws?
a) Are lunch breaks for employees compensable? Lunch labor laws (typically 30 minutes or more) do allow the employer not to compensate the employee as work time under certain circumstances. However, “working lunches” need to be compensated. Thus, the employee must be completely relieved from work duties for the purpose of eating regular meals. The employee is not relieved if he/she is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating. Employers often deduct all lunch breaks automatically from time records which is not in compliance with the FLSA. An experienced labor lawyer will analyze the individual circumstances to determine when a lunch break is actually compensable.
b) Are rest breaks for employees compensable? Rest breaks of short duration, usually 20 minutes or less, are common in industry (and promote the efficiency of the employee) and are customarily paid for as working time. These short periods must be counted as hours worked. Unauthorized extensions of authorized work breaks need not be counted as hours worked when the employer has expressly and unambiguously communicated to the employee that the authorized break may only last for a specific length of time, that any extension of the break is contrary to the employer’s rules, and any extension of the break will be punished.
2.) What is compensable time? Compensable time is the FLSA law that is Applied to the Workweek to Calculate the Actual Number of Hours Worked. Employees’ work not requested but suffered or permitted to be performed is work time that must be paid for by the employer. For example, an employee may voluntarily continue to work at the end of the shift to finish an assigned task or to correct errors and the management or owner of the business is aware indirectly or directly that this is going on. The reason why the employee has continued to work is immaterial. The additional hours are work time and are compensable.
3.) Is waiting time for employees compensable? Whether waiting time is to be considered as hours worked under the FLSA depends upon the particular circumstances. Generally, the facts may show that the employee was engaged to wait (which is work time) or the facts may show that the employee was waiting to be engaged (which is not work time). For example, a secretary who reads a book while waiting for dictation or a fireman who plays checkers while waiting for an alarm is working during such periods of inactivity. These employees have been “engaged to wait.”
4.) Is employee on-call time compensable? An employee who is required to remain on call on the employer’s premises is working while “on call.” An employee who is required to remain on call at home, or who is allowed to leave a message where he/she can be reached, is not working (in most cases) while on call. Additional constraints on the employee’s freedom could require this time to be compensated.
5.) Are sleeping time and certain other activities compensable? An employee who is required to be on duty for less than 24 hours is working even though he/she is permitted to sleep or engage in other personal activities when not busy. An employee required to be on duty for 24 hours or more may agree with the employer to exclude from hours worked bona fide regularly scheduled sleeping periods of not more than 8 hours, provided adequate sleeping facilities are furnished by the employer and the employee can usually enjoy an uninterrupted night’s sleep. No reduction is permitted unless at least 5 hours of sleep is taken.
6.) What is general rule for attending lectures, meetings and training Programs? Attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities need not be counted as working time only if four criteria are met, namely: it is outside normal hours, it is voluntary, not job related, and no other work is concurrently performed.
7.) What is the general rule for travel time for employees? The principles which apply in determining whether time spent in travel is compensable time depends upon the kind of travel involved and the job duties of the employee. This is a complex area and a Florida wage lawyer needs to carefully analyze the facts in each particular situation.
8.) Is home to work travel time compensable generally? An employee who travels from home before the regular workday and returns to his/her home at the end of the workday is engaged in ordinary home to work travel, which is not work time.
9.) Is home to work on a special one day assignment in another city compensable? An employee who regularly works at a fixed location in one city is given a special one day assignment in another city and returns home the same day. The time spent in traveling to and returning from the other city is work time, except that the employer may deduct/not count that time the employee would normally spend commuting to the regular work site.
10.) Is travel that is all in a day’s work compensable? Time spent by an employee in travel as part of their principal activity, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday, is work time and must be counted as hours worked.
11.) Is travel away from home community compensable? Travel that keeps an employee away from home overnight is travel away from home. Travel away from home is clearly work time when it cuts across the employee’s workday. The time is not only hours worked on regular working days during normal working hours but also during corresponding hours on nonworking days.
12.) What does “Employ” Mean under the FLSA? By statutory definition the term “employ” includes “to suffer or permit to work.” The workweek ordinarily includes all time during which an employee is necessarily required to be on the employer’s premises, on duty or at a prescribed work place. “Workday“, in general, means the period between the time on any particular day when such employee commences his/her “principal activity” and the time on that day at which he/she ceases such principal activity or activities. The workday may therefore be longer than the employee’s scheduled time.
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