Executive Summary: Almost all long-haul drivers are exempt from overtime under the motor carrier exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). However, these same drivers are not exempt from the FLSA’s minimum wage requirements. Due to the ongoing driver shortage, drivers’ rates far exceed the minimum wage, especially when considering the Motor Carrier Safety Act limits on-duty hours to 60 per week. So it’s no surprise that many motor carriers were caught off guard when federal courts found them liable for not paying minimum wage because they failed to count the time drivers spent sleeping as hours worked. In guidance issued July 22, 2019 the United States Department of Labor (DOL) addressed the circumstances when time in the sleeper berth is compensable and shifted the burden to drivers to prove they were performing compensable work in the berth, providing “straightforward” guidance for the motor carrier industry and a defense to the minimum wage claims.
Articles Discussing Breaks Under the FLSA.
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).
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.
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.
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).
Q. We offer free lunches to our food service employees. Can we count the cost of these lunches as part of our employees’ compensation?
On March 3, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is set to hear oral argument in two cases addressing whether California’s meal and rest break requirements are preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA) when applied to motor carriers. The cases are Dilts v. Penske Logistics, LLC, and Campbell v. Vitran Express.
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).
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?