Meal breaks are a unique part of the Fair Labor Standards Act. They aren't required under the law, but are regulated if provided by employers.
The major concern with meal breaks is that as long as they last for 30 consecutive minutes, businesses don't need to compensate employees for the time. However, issues with breaks not lasting the requisite half-hour or being interrupted with work tasks have created trouble for companies, according to law firm Ogletree Deakins. Employers have been found liable for amounts up to $35 million based on improper meal break compliance.
An important distinction is that the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, which administers the FLSA, requires payment for the 30-minute break period if any part of it is compromised with work duties. Ogletree Deakins warns against automatic deductions to employee paychecks except in clear situations like employees moving to a designated break area or physically leaving the premises of a business for a meal.
Employee management software helps track workers and lets supervisors perform actions like overriding meal break deductions when breaks don't last their full 30 minutes. The software also provides records that can help prove businesses meet the FLSA standards for unpaid meal breaks.
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