HR 101: When Must You Pay Employees for Rest Breaks?


By Eric B. Meyer

This Tuesday blog post is brought to you by the number 20. As in, when your non-exempt employees go on break for 20 minutes or less, you need to pay them for that time.

The regulations to the Fair Labor Standards Act say that “rest periods of short duration, running from five (5) minutes to about 20 minutes, are common in industry. They promote the efficiency of the employee and are customarily paid for as working time. They must be counted as hours worked.”

And right before the end of 2015, Judge L. Felipe Restrepo, a recently-confirmed judge on the Philadelphia-based Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, concluded (in Perez v. American Future Systems Inc.) that the FLSA regulation about short rest breaks being compensable time is a “bright-line rule.”

OK, there are a few exceptions.

But don’t feel too bad about having this brightish-line rule being applied to this particular employer. You see, this company supposedly docked non-exempt employees for the time they spent on bathroom breaks.

Sponsored Content

How to Build Productivity Through Reward and Recognition

When it comes to rewarding and recognizing employees, many companies don’t know what to do or where to start—let alone how to maintain an ongoing model. Which is understandable since HR has so much to do. However, reward and recognition programs yield such high results that it only makes sense to make creating one at your company a top priority. Learn how reward and recognition can impact your employees, how to effectively reward and recognize employees, and eleven ways you can recognize employees for free!

How to curtail employee abuse of break time

You wouldn’t do that, would you? (Or this?) But, unauthorized extensions of authorized employer breaks are not counted as hours worked for an employee when the company clearly communicates to employees that:

  • The authorized break may only last for a specific length of time;
  • Any extension of such break is contrary to the employer’s rules; and,
  • Any extension of such a break will be punished.

Don’t just take my word on it. This is straight from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Field Investigator’s Handbook. And, of course, if the breaks are unauthorized, you can discipline for that too. I suggest thumb screws counseling.