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Total Articles: 29

Pump the Breaks: Employers Cannot Bypass Obligation to Compensate Employees for Short Rest Periods

Refusing to compensate employees for short breaks is prohibited by the FLSA, the Third Circuit has confirmed. Thus, an employer’s “flexible time” policy, under which employees were not paid if they logged off of their computers for more than 90 seconds, fails to comply with the Act when employees take breaks of twenty minutes or less, even if the policy allows the employee to log off whenever desired and for any length of time. Secretary, U.S. Dep’t of Labor v. American Future Systems, Inc., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 19991 (3rd Cir. Oct. 13, 2017).

Ninety Seconds Is Not Enough: Third Circuit Rules That Break Policy Violates the FLSA

In Secretary United States Department of Labor v. American Future Systems, Inc., No. 16-2685 (October 13, 2017), the Third Circuit Court of Appeals considered whether an employer’s failure to compensate employees for periods of 20 minutes or less time when they were relieved of all work-related duties violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Third Circuit held that the FLSA requires employers to compensate employees for breaks of 20 minutes or less, and rejected the employer’s contention that under the employer’s “flexible time” policy, such non-work periods did not constitute breaks within the meaning of the law.

Another Nursing Mother's FLSA Claims Settled

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that a California restaurant company has agreed to take steps to remedy alleged:

Meal and Rest Breaks – What are the Rules?

While the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) generally does not require employers to provide meal or rest breaks to employees over the age of 18, state laws may differ significantly from federal law. Under the FLSA, if an employer provides employees with short rest breaks (usually 20 minutes or less), it must pay employees for this time. However, federal law does not require employers to pay employees for meal breaks of 30 minutes or longer, as long as the employee is completely relieved of all work duties.

Tidal Waves? Music Streaming Service Faces Lactation Break Challenge

While many employers are focused on efforts by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to implement and enforce its revised white collar overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers should not overlook another aspect of the FLSA concerning lactation breaks for breastfeeding mothers.

Employers May Not Claim Voluntary Meal Break Payments as Credit for Overtime, 3rd Cir. Rules

Just because an employer pays its employees for time spent in meal breaks, even though it is not required to do so, does not mean the employer may apply those payments to offset overtime due to the employees, a federal appeals court has ruled.

Private Citizens Can Sue For Violations of Federal Breast Feeding Law

In August 2012, we wrote that the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa held that there is no private cause of action to enforce the breast feeding provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA) in Salz v. Casey’s Manufacturing Co. That may no longer be true.

Ninth Circuit: FLSA's Tip-Pooling Restrictions Apply Regardless of Whether Employers Use Tip Credits

On February 23, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a 2-1 panel decision upheld the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) 2011 revisions to 29 C.F.R. § 531.52 applying tip-pooling restrictions to employers that do not use a tip credit to satisfy minimum wage obligations.1 Under the revised rules, tips are the property of the employee who receives them, whether or not the employer uses the tip credit. The employer is prohibited from using the tips for any reason other than the tip credit, or in furtherance of a valid tip pool that includes only employees who “customarily and regularly” receive tips. This means that employees in “back-of-house” or other positions that are not “customarily and regularly” tipped may not share in any portion of tips left by customers.

Bathroom (Unpaid) Break: FLSA Foul Up

A dispute over unpaid bathroom break time at the office has resulted in an employer flushing away some $1.75 million as a result of violating the FLSA. The case arose when the Labor Department filed suit against a publisher after discovering that its employees were not earning the $7.25 hourly minimum wage during “personal breaks.” Pursuant to the employer’s policy, employees were required to clock out while using the bathroom, getting a drink or similar breaks.

Corrections Officers’ Pleading Did Not Establish That County Was “Primary Beneficiary” Of Unpaid Meal Period

Time spent by employees in meal and other breaks continues to prompt litigation against public and private sector employers. In a recent decision, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that corrections officers at a Pennsylvania prison failed to allege a violation of the FLSA by challenging the County’s failure to compensate them for part of their meal periods pursuant to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the parties. Babcock v. Butler Cnty., 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 20393 (3d Cir. 2015).

Unpaid Meal Breaks Just Got Easier to Defend in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania

An employer in Delaware, New Jersey or Pennsylvania need not pay an employee for meal breaks as long at the employee receives most of the benefit of the break, a federal appellate court has ruled. A US Department of Labor (DOL) regulation states that "an employee must be completely relieved from duty" for a meal break to be unpaid. So, for example, an office employee who is required to eat at his desk or a factory worker who is required to be at her machine is working while eating, according to the DOL.

Third Circuit: Meal Breaks For Employees' "Predominant Benefit" Are Not Worktime

The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (with jurisdiction over Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) has ruled in Babcock v. Butler County that employees who receive the "predominant benefit" of a meal break are not entitled to have the break treated as worktime under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. In doing so, the Third Circuit joined every other federal court of appeals that has directly considered the issue.

Nursing Mother's USDOL Claim Settled

The U.S. Labor Department reports that a temporary-staffing employee has received $1,152 in back-wages and unspecified "other damages" for what it contended was a violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act's Section 7(r). Readers will recall our series of posts discussing this 2010 FLSA amendment that obligates covered employers to give unpaid break time to a worker for the purpose of expressing breastmilk for her nursing child.

What is the Cost of a Free Lunch? [Wage & Hour FAQ]

Q. We offer free lunches to our food service employees. Can we count the cost of these lunches as part of our employees' compensation?

Healthcare News: Former Nurse Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Settle Circuit Split on Meal Break and Timekeeping Issue

Executive Summary: On July 22, 2013 a former nurse asked the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve a circuit split, which she claims the Sixth Circuit created when it found that the nurse's admitted failure to follow the hospital's procedures for logging interrupted meal breaks and correcting payroll errors precluded her from seeking damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Plan Ahead To Accommodate Nursing Mothers

The publication Corporate Compliance Insights (which focuses upon matters of interest regarding compliance, governance, and risk in the business community) recently published an article we authored regarding the federal Fair Labor Standards Act's requirement that covered employers provide breaktime to a worker for the purpose of expressing breast milk for her nursing child.

USDOL Provides Enforcement Statistics On FLSA Breastmilk-Break Requirement

The U.S. Labor Department recently responded to our July 2012 Freedom of Information Act request for documents relating to its enforcement of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act's Section 7(r). This provision requires covered employers to grant breaktime to an employee for the purpose of expressing breastmilk for her nursing child. We have been following developments regarding this provision since employers first found out that it was included in 2010's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Sixth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of FLSA Meal Break Claim

In White v. Baptist Mem'l Health Care Corp., No. 11-5717, (6th Cir. Nov. 6, 2012), the Sixth Circuit held that a nurse's failure to take advantage of the time recording system offered by her employer to enter the hours that she worked during meal breaks precluded her from bringing a Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") collective action for unpaid wages.

Automatically Deducting For Meal Breaks Can Be Costly

Automatic deductions, where the employer's timekeeping system assumes and deducts for a 30-minute meal break, have proved to be a fruitful target for plaintiffs. During the past 10 years, over 40,000 lawsuits have been filed under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and the trend shows no signs of easing. Filings increased by 10% in 2010. There has been a similar flood of lawsuits under state and local laws.

Court Rejects Individual Enforcement Of FLSA Breastmilk-Break Requirement

An Iowa federal court has dismissed a worker's claim which alleged that her employer failed to comply with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act's Section 7(r) requirement regarding breaktime for the purpose of expressing breastmilk. Under this 2010 FLSA amendment, employers are required among other things to provide places for such breaks that are "shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public."

Flipping the Switch: Who Is Responsible for Getting Employees to Take a Break?

It is quitting time, and you know the drill. You grab your coat and slip on your Bluetooth for a quick call with a client on the commute home. You stop at the grocery store and, while you are in line, pluck out your BlackBerry to respond to emails. You arrive home, sit down to dinner and try hard to resist the flashing red light on your smartphone. Dinner is done: Time to check your email again, clear the dishes, and sit on the couch for some TV -- with your computer on your lap, of course. Just a few last emails and then it is time for bed. You will soon wake up to do it all over again tomorrow.

Overstaying Rest Breaks: Round Two

Our earlier post about the U.S. Labor Department's position on unauthorized extensions of rest breaks has generated additional comments and questions. We have responded to one comment at length beneath the post itself.

Automatic Time Deductions for Meal Breaks Can Be Very Costly

Automatic deductions, where the employer's time-keeping system assumes and deducts for a 30-minute meal break, have proved to be a fruitful target for plaintiffs.

When does the FLSA require pay for meal periods? [Wage & Hour FAQ]

Q. A company provides employees with a 30-minute unpaid lunch break. An employee, who is a smoker, has asked if she can take two 5-minute unpaid smoking breaks - one in the morning and one in the afternoon - and reduce her unpaid lunch break to 20 minutes. Is this allowed?

FLSA Lactation-Break Comments Urge Expansive Approach

The period has now closed for submitting information and comments relating to the U.S. Labor Department's "preliminary interpretations" of the 2010 federal Fair Labor Standards Act lactation-break amendment. We highlighted these preliminary interpretations in a December post. If DOL adopts even a portion of the positions put forth by many commenters, employers will be faced with yet another legal minefield.

Are Established Meal Periods Of Under 30 Minutes FLSA "Hours Worked"?

Our July 5 post prompted a question about whether an established meal period of less than 30 minutes must be considered worktime under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The answer is, "Not necessarily".

Beware the Meal Period Time-Bomb

An increasing number of federal Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuits and U.S. Labor Department investigations include claims based upon the employer's deducting meal periods from non-exempt employees' recorded worktimes. Typically, the employees did not clock out-and-in to reflect the mealtime they took. Instead, the employers automatically deducted the full, scheduled meal period from each employee's total daily hours on the assumption that the person took a full meal break each workday. An employee who worked during a meal could avoid the deduction by using an exception feature of the timekeeping system, but the usual allegation is that employees did so inconsistently or infrequently, if ever.

Kampai! Sushi Chefs Ruled Eligible for Tip Pool.

The hospitality industry has not escaped the nationwide wave of wage-hour lawsuits. A contentious area under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act has involved the practice of requiring tipped employees to contribute some of their tips to a pool that is split among other workers. The U.S. Labor Department recently addressed an important tip-pooling question: Under the FLSA's tip-credit standards, who may receive tips from such a pool?

New FMLA Regulations Leave Employers Scrambling to Comply.

After years of waiting, the U.S. Labor Department (DOL) has just published new regulations interpreting the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). These are the first significant changes since 1994, and will impact every employer subject to the law. The 762 pages of regulations not only address two new forms of military leave created earlier this year, but also make minor tweaks, major adjustments and wholesale changes to sections of the original FMLA regulations.
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