Other Work Issues Article


Work Breaks and Lunches

Employers determine if and when employees can take a break or lunch period.  If an employer provides work breaks or lunches, the employer determines the length of the break and lunch period.

There is no federal law or Arizona state law that says employers must provide breaks and lunches.  There are mandatory break and lunch period laws in some other states, but not Arizona.

Pay for Breaks and Lunches

The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), a federal law, tells those employers that provide breaks and lunches how to pay employees when taking a break or lunch.

Breaks – employers must pay employees during a break period.  Therefore, if an employer provides 2 ten minute breaks during a shift, the employer must pay the employee during the breaks.

Lunch periods - - employers do not have to pay the employee for lunch periods. Employers usually provide lunch periods of thirty minutes or more.  Under special conditions, employers can provide an unpaid lunch period shorter than 30 minutes.

In order for any lunch period to be unpaid, the employer must relieve the employee of all duties.  For example, if the employer expects an employee to eat lunch at her desk and answer the phone when the phone rings, the employer has not relieved the employee of all duties.  Because the employee is not relieved of all duties, the employer must pay the employee during this lunch period.

Other Important Things


1.    Employers can limit an employee’s physical activity during a paid break.  Many employers require the employee to remain on premises during any paid break or paid lunch.
2.    If your employer has a paid break or lunch period policy, the employer may deny paid break or lunch to employees and does not have to provide the employees additional pay or more breaks the next day.  For example, because of a very busy workload on a day, the employer does not let anyone take either of two ten minute paid breaks that day.  The employer does not have to pay the employees an additional twenty minutes for the two paid breaks missed that day.
3.    Employers determine when employees take breaks and lunch periods.  For example, an employer’s normal workday is 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with a thirty minute unpaid lunch from noon to 12:30 p.m.  So that the employee can get home earlier, the employee asks if she can work 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and not take the 30 minute non-paid lunch.  The employee can deny this request.

What to Do if Your Rights Have Been Violated

If you believe your employer is not paying you properly for lunch and break periods, review your employer’s pay policy to determine who you should speak to and arrange a meeting with that person.  Have a meeting with that person and explain why you feel you are not being paid correctly.  Give the employer as many specific facts as you have. Listen to the employer’s explanation.

If, after speaking with your employer, you still think you are not being paid correctly, you should contact the Wage and Hour division of the U.S. Department of Labor.  This is the contact information for the Arizona office.

Comments:

QUESTIONS

  • I was an independent contractor for a local company. First, can they require a person to give them 60 days notice prior to quitting? I did quit (didn't give 60 days). The owner is claiming that I still have paperwork and keys, which I have turned in everything, and she's withholding my last paycheck. Can she do that? Can I, as an independent contractor, file a wage claim?
  • If I worked at a company for 2 years and they say they lost my file is it mandatory that I fill out another job application
  • I will be changing from salary to hourly, my company is taking 40 hours of my PTO to pay me a weeks wage. Can they do that? I earned those PTO hours.
  • I work in sales with commissions and might be changing jobs. Will I be due the commissions from my old job?
  • I work retail and the local union is calling for a strike. I'm not in the union, but I'm covered under the healthcare and the union rep is telling me I can be fined if I cross a picket line to work. Is this true?
  • Question-once a work schedule of an employee has been posted can the employer make changes to the schedule w/o consulting the employee, and if employee can not accommodate the change can the employer retaliate with disciplinary action.
  • I was hired by a company. I was hired to be a Financial Assistant. At first I thought that this company was real, because they had me sign an employment agreement and gave me a confirmation saying that I was hired. What this company did was deposit large amounts of money into my personal acct, then they wanted me to withdraw the money and have it transferred to other people in Russia by using a funds transfer service. My bank froze my bank acct because it would be under investigation because they did not know were this money was coming from.
  • What if a customer is not willing to provide reasonable accommodations for an illness or disability? Who can you contact?
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  • I work in the construction industry as a foreman and have to stop by the office most mornings and afternoons to look at project packets, file time cards, and gather necessary tools for the jobsite. The company does not compensate me for this time at all. Is this illegal? Who do I report it to? In addition, I was recently fired for complaining about this as well as many other safety issues.

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