FLSA says workers should be compensated for short breaks

A recent decision by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals may eventually have an impact on Texas employees. The court held that employees are entitled to be paid for breaks that are 20 minutes in duration or less. The case involved a company called Progressive Business Publications that had eliminated paid 15-minute breaks for employees in favor of a flex-time program. Employees were allowed to leave their workstations for any reason at any point during the day.

However, workers were not paid if they were away from their workstations for more than 90 seconds. The company argued that using the restroom or getting coffee was not considered work under the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA). The Department of Labor, which investigated Progressive from 2009 to 2011, informed the company that sales representatives needed to be paid for breaks of less than 20 minutes.

The 3rd Circuit ruling gave the DOL a partial summary judgment in the case. In its decision, the court said that employees couldn't do anything in less than 20 minutes other than partake in activities that are good for the employer. Furthermore, it ruled that the company policy forced workers to choose between getting paid and basic necessities such as having access to a bathroom. Ultimately, employers must compensate employees for breaks of less than 20 minutes no matter what they are called.

If an employee does not receive meal or break periods, an employer may be violating the FLSA. This may also be true if a worker is denied overtime pay. An attorney may review a case to determine if a worker has a claim against his or her employer. It may be possible to use pay records, employer statements or witness statements to establish that a worker was denied basic rights under the law.

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