Can I Sue my Employer for Making Me Work During Breaks?

In general, and in most states, rest break laws say that an employer can require employees to work during rest breaks, but there are certain rules that must be followed.

For example, according to California law, employers must allow nonexempt employees to take a rest break that must, as long as practical, be taken in the middle of each work period.

These rest periods are based on the total hours of work daily.  It must be at the minimum rate of a ten consecutive minutes for each four-hour work period.

A rest break period is not required for employees whose total daily work time is less than three and one-half hours. The rest break period is counted as time worked and therefore, the employer must pay for such break periods.

If you believe that your employer fails to follow the rules regarding rest break laws, you may be able to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor or seek legal action against your employer.

It is important to note that the rules regarding rest breaks can vary by state, so you should check with your state labor department to determine your rights.

Who is Entitled to Rest Breaks in California?

California rest break period requirements only apply to non-exempt employees. Exempt employees do not fall under state law on rest break requirements.

An explain of exempt employees is white-collar exempt employees.  To meet the white-collar exemption in California law, you must:

  1. Spend more than half of their work time doing intellectual, managerial or creative work.
  2. Regularly exercise discretion and independent judgment in performing those duties
  3. Earn a monthly salary equivalent to at least twice the California wage minimum for full-time employment.

How Long do I Have to Work During a Rest Break before I can be paid?

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are required to pay employees for all work hours under federal law. This includes any time that an employee is required to work “off the clock.”

If an employee works more than 40 hours in a workweek, they are entitled to overtime pay at a rate of at least one and a half times their regular rate of pay.

There is no specific time limit for when an employee must be paid for working off the clock.

If an employee works any time that is not properly compensated, they may be able to seek back pay and damages from their employer.

If you believe that you are not being paid properly for all hours worked, you should contact the U.S. Department of Labor or an employment attorney to discuss your options.

It is important to keep accurate records of the time you work, including any time that you work off the clock. This can be helpful in supporting your claim for unpaid wages.

What is the Fair Labor Standards Act?

The FLSA is a federal law that establishes wage minimums, overtime, record-keeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments.

Under the FLSA, covered employers must pay covered employees working at least the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour.

In addition, the FLSA requires that covered employers pay overtime at a rate of not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay to covered employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek.

The FLSA also has provisions that regulate the employment of minors, including restrictions on the types of work that they can do and the hours that they can work.

The FLSA applies to most employers, although some exceptions apply. If you are an employee who is covered by the FLSA and you believe that your employer fails to meet compliance with the law, you may be able to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

Common questions and answers for those in California

Q.           Is it allowable if I work through both of my rest periods so that I can leave my job 20 minutes early?

A.           No, working through your rest break period does not allow you to leave work early or arrive late.

Q.           Can my job require that I stay on the work site during my rest periods?

A.          No, your employer cannot impose any restraints not inherent in the rest break period requirement itself.

Q.           Can I have more rest breaks if I am a smoker?

A.            No, under California law rest break rules are based on the total hours of work daily, and only one ten-minute rest break period need be authorized for every four hours of work.

Q.           When I need to use the bathroom during my work shift does that count as my ten-minute rest break?

A.            No, the 10-minute rest break period is not designed to be for bathroom breaks only.  The intent of the State regarding rest break periods is clear – the rest break period is not to be confused with or limited to rest breaks taken by employees to use toilet facilities.

If you work for small business owners or even large employers and feel that they are in violation of the rest break requirements set forth by the FLSA, make sure you consult an employment lawyer to better understand your rights as an employee.