• Employee Work-Break Ruling
  • January 30, 2018
  • In October 2017, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in United States Department of Labor v. American Future Systems Inc. et al that under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are required to compensate employees for the time they spend on breaks of 20 minutes or less. This ruling came after the Department of Labor cited a federal regulation stating that breaks of five to 20 minutes are necessary for workers to maintain efficiency and must be compensated as part of the employee’s hours worked. The case was brought upon when the Department of Labor filed a claim against a company that did not pay employees for breaks lasting longer than 90 seconds.

    Defining Off-Duty
    The key issue in the case discussed above is the interpretation of the term off-duty, and how it is used in the federal code and applied to the breaks taken by employees at the company. According to the company, employees could use their time flexibly to take breaks when they felt it was necessary, during which time they were relieved of all duties. According to the Department of Labor and the court, these breaks fell into an area exempt from the off-duty section that establishes a bright line rule: breaks taken 20 minutes or less. A bright line rule is an objective rule or standard that can only be interpreted in one way. These rules exist to create predictable, consistent applications of their guidelines.

    When Employees Must Be Paid
    Breaks lasting up to 20 minutes are not the only instance where employees need to be paid for their work. Whenever an employee performs their job duties or other labor for an employer, they must be compensated the federal minimum wage per hour unless they are subject to a higher state minimum wage, or they work in a position exempt from the minimum wage, such as serving food in a restaurant. It is illegal for an employer to require an employee to work before or after their shift. When an employee travels as part of their principal work activity, they must be compensated for the time spent traveling. Similarly, employees must be compensated for all training and seminars that fall outside their work hours unless numerous specific criteria are met. Employees also cannot be required to work through meal breaks.

    South Jersey Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Represent Employees Denied their Earned Wages
    If you were not compensated for the work you performed, or you were not compensated appropriately under the law and your employment contract, fill out our online form or call 215-569-1999 to schedule your legal consultation with a South Jersey employment lawyer at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Our office is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and we proudly serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.