Last week on October 13 the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that an employer must pay a non-exempt employee for all rest breaks of 20 minutes or less. This is nothing new and has been the law of the land under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for quite some time. The FSLA was established in 1938 and established certain minimum living standard for workers such as minimum wage, time and a half and child labor standards. What is new under this decision is that the Court decided this is a bright line test and the facts surrounding each break period need not be looked at on a case by case basis. In other words, if the employer did not pay an employee for a 20 minute employee break, the analysis is over and the employer has violated the FLSA.
Employee Breaks – FLSA as a Federal Floor and State Laws
Employers are governed by both federal (FLSA) and state employment laws. Understand that the FSLA is a minimum standard, a floor, if your will, and that if a particular state has more stringent employee protection requirements, that state’s law must be complied with as well. The Department of Labor has a list that identifies (current as of January 2017) what each state requires under their employment laws regarding paid employee breaks. Click here for that state by state list.