Is my employer required to pay me for work breaks?

Many employees have questions concerning their right to compensation during breaks – and when they are entitled to paid lunch and work breaks.  Workers may feel disgruntled if they perceive co-workers are getting away with taking more breaks than they are – such as is common when some workers take smoke breaks and others don’t.

However, there’s no simple answer to this situation.  Neither federal law under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) nor Georgia State law requires that employers provide “break time.”  Whether for meals, or rest.  The only exceptions are for breast feeding and certain accommodations pursuant to the ADA.  While generally no breaks are required – employers must compensate their employees for all time spent working, including short breaks during the day.  Breaks that are less than 20 minutes long are considered work time and must be paid.  If time worked, including break time, exceeds 40 hours, then the employer must pay all non-exempt workers overtime for all time worked in excess of 40.  Meal periods can be unpaid, as long as they are 30 minutes or more and uninterrupted.

In general workplaces improve morale by allowing breaks as needed.  However, where policies are unevenly enforced, employees may become disgruntled.

If you have any wage and hour question, or believe that you have not received all compensation you are entitled to, please contact the experienced Atlanta wage and hour lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.

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