I Have Worked for Three Years Without Meal Breaks. Do I Have a Claim?
Unlike worker in many other countries around the world, workers in the United States are protected in the workplace by a variety of state and federal laws aimed at creating and maintaining a safe and fair workplace. Although these laws go a long way toward regulating the employer-employee relationship, there are still a number of areas that are left to the employer’s discretion. One of those areas is meal breaks. Employees are often surprised to find that although many employers do provide scheduled meal breaks, there is no federal law requiring an employer to do so.
That’s right – your employer is most likely not legally required to give you a break at all, regardless of how many hours you work in a given day. Many employees are shocked to learn that considering all the laws the federal government has implemented relating to the manner in which employers treat employees, a law requiring some type of meal break when an employee works an entire day is not among those laws. Although federal law does not require an employer to provide breaks, if an employer does decide to do so, the break time is compensable if the break is short, between 5-20 minutes. The break time is also to be included in the total hours worked for purposes of calculating overtime wages for the workweek. Likewise, an employee who eats lunch at his/her desk, or otherwise continues to work while eating, must be compensated for the “break time.”
Because the federal government has remained silent on the issue of mandatory breaks, many individual states have enacted laws that require employers to provide mandatory breaks to employees. Unfortunately, the State of Florida is not one of those states, except where minors are concerned. Minors under the age of 18 operate under different workplace laws because it is assumed they are still in school. Florida law mandates at least an uninterrupted 30 minute break for a minor who has worked four consecutive hours.
One last place to look for a source for mandatory mea breaks is your employer’s company policies. Most large companies have written company policies that set forth the rules and regulations for employment with the company. It may also explain both the employee’s responsibilities and the employer’s duty to the employees. If your employer has a policy of providing meal breaks and you have not been receiving one, bring the matter to the attention of a supervisor. Unfortunately, violating company policy does not provide grounds for a legal challenge; however, it might result in finally getting the breaks you deserve.
If you have additional questions or concerns about your rights as an employee, contact the employment law attorneys at Curley & Rothman, LLC by calling 610-834-8819 today to schedule your free consultation.