I recently spoke to an employment attorney that currently has 14 wage and hour cases primarily relating to meal and rest break violations and overtime. As I mentioned last month, I am going to focus, over the next few months, on several ways to guarantee that your employees sue you and meal and rest breaks are the number one issue we see.

The following are some general guidelines for meal and rest breaks:

  1. Create compliant meal and rest break policies.
  2. Meet your obligation to provide uninterrupted meal and rest breaks where the employee is relieved of all duty.
  3. Require employees to accurately record time in, meals, and time out.
  4. Since the rest break time is paid, the employee does not need to clock out.
  5. Regularly audit your timecard records to determine whether employees are accurately reporting time and meal breaks.
  6. Educate supervisors and poor managers about their obligations relating to meal and rest periods and discipline managers who do not follow policy. Train managers that they cannot interrupt employees during breaks.
  7. Inform employees that they should notify management if they have been denied the opportunity to take a meal or rest break. Employees should not be required to report this only to their direct supervisor, as it may be the supervisor who is discouraging them from taking the break.
  8. Properly document missed meal and rest breaks.
  9. Pay nonexempt employees meal and rest break penalties if they miss a break.
  10. Ask employees to report the reason for any missed break to human resources (or to another office administrator). This will allow you to account for the time for payroll purposes and also to monitor why employees are missing breaks.

JorgensenHR assists employment attorneys with wage and hour lawsuits by handling the calculations necessary to determine if employees take their breaks and how much the employer may owe in mealtime penalties and other costs associated with these types of lawsuits. Our consultants spend hours reviewing payroll records, timecards, and verifying meal and rest breaks. One case with 200 employees that are paid bi-weekly consists of over 5,000 payroll records to review for just one year.

One of the common things we see is employees leaving for lunch every day exactly at 12 noon and returning at exactly 12.30 or 1. It is impossible for an employee to leave and return at the same time each day and plaintiff attorneys jump on these time clock issues for class action lawsuits.

What happens when employees don’t receive compliant breaks? They are entitled to one hour of pay for each day a rest-period rule was violated and one hour of pay for each day a meal-period rule wasn’t followed. That means workers can receive up to two hours of premium pay per day which is paid at their regular rate of pay not their hourly rate.

JorgensenHR recommends that at the end of each pay period the employee certifies that they received all meal and rest breaks they were eligible for.

If you are confused about meal and rest breaks or want to insure you are compliant, we can help!

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