What is the Federal Law on Lunch Breaks?
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), lunch breaks are defined as breaks of 30 minutes or longer, which are solely for the purpose of eating a meal. The employee must not be working at the same time and be “fully relieved of duties” during this period. If the employee is working while eating, then the lunch break is considered to be regular work time.
Paid vs. Unpaid Breaks in Texas
Understanding Texas work break laws and meal break violations can be confusing, but the state does offer definitions for meal and rest breaks. Generally speaking, a rest break is classified as a paid break during the workday that lasts 20 minutes or less. Federal law requires you to be paid for any break which lasts up to 20 minutes. Also, if your employer does not allow you at least 20 minutes to eat your meal, you should be paid for that time.
The Texas Workforce Commission Texas Guidebook for Employers defines a meal break as unpaid, at least 30 minutes, and the employee is entirely relieved from their workplace duties. To differentiate them from paid rest breaks, you may see these 30-minute, unpaid meal breaks referred to as “bona fide meal breaks.”
Situations that constitute a meal break violation include:
- Discriminating against employees when allowing rest and meal breaks
- Forcing an employee to work through their unpaid meal period
- Violating employment contracts that specify meal or rest breaks
- Abuse of overtime regulations because of meal break violations
- Retaliation or unjust disciplinary actions after refusing to work through an unpaid break
Another common break violation is when employers deduct what should be paid breaks from your pay. For example, if you are allowed short rest breaks of 5-20 minutes, these should be paid. If your employer deducts this from your paycheck, they have committed a wage violation.
How Many Breaks in a 12-Hour Shift in Texas?
In Texas, there are no labor laws in breaks, so employees do not have a right to breaks and employers are not required to provide a certain number of breaks even during a 12-hour shift. However, it is common for workplaces to provide one meal break (30 mins.) and two rest breaks (15 mins. each) during a shift.
Even though Texas employers are not required to provide their employees with breaks, under federal law, employers must pay their employees for any time they are working and for short breaks during the day. If an employer provides employees with a long meal break when the employee is not working, then the employer does not have to pay for that time.
Dealing with Texas Meal Break Violations
The key to understanding Texas work break laws and meal break violations is acknowledging that all employees must be paid for the work they perform. When an employer fails to do so, an offense has been committed. For example, if an employer elects to provide their employees unpaid meal breaks and then forces an employee to work through that break and does not pay them for that work, they have committed a meal break violation. When this happens, you should consult an experienced employment lawyer.
If you suspect you are a victim of a lunch break law violation in Texas:
- Document the incident(s), including all contextual information such as dates, times, and who else was working when the incident(s) occurred
- Keep track of the lost wages that have resulted from the meal break violations
- Start keeping a record of your worked hours and breaks
- Start a record of all received pay, and save all paystubs
- Find out if any corroborating witnesses support your claim
Suppose you witness meal break discrimination or other meal break violations in your workplace. In that case, you, too, should consult with a lawyer, especially if you fear or have suffered retaliation after reporting meal break violations. Employers should be held accountable for their actions, and you deserve protection from unjust punishment.
Pursue Your Texas Lunch Law Case Today
Regardless of the specific meal break rules your employer lays out, you and your coworkers deserve to be paid for your work hours. I am board-certified in labor and employment law, and I have extensive experience handling meal break violation cases in Tyler. I know that taking your employer to court is a big deal, and many clients report feeling scared to speak up when their rights are violated. Hommel Law Firm has tried over 100 lawsuits to jury verdicts, and I am not afraid to stand up for you in court. We can help you understand Texas work break laws and whether your employer violated your lunch break requirements in Texas. Contact us for a case consultation.
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