FLSA Requires Compensation for Work through Required Breaks

August 11, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Even if employees work through their required meal breaks in violation of company policy, the employer still must pay them for all hours worked.

That was the key conclusion of a U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) opinion letter released in late July.

In response to a New York company not identified in the letter, Monty Navarro, DoL Office of Enforcement Policy, Fair Labor Standards Team, asserted that the employer “must compensate the employee for all hours worked, including the time worked during the missed meal period.”  The employer had requested an interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requirements.

Navarro also asserted that the time worked through the missed meal period should be counted as hours worked for purposes of determining any overtime compensation. “Before an employee can be said to be paid statutory overtime compensation due, the employee must first be paid all straight time wages due for all hours worked under any express or implied contract or under an applicable statute,” Navarro stated.

The employer had asked the DoL for an opinion about whether additional straight time would be due when an employee violates company policy by skipping a meal break and failing to notify the manager that the break was missed. Under the scenario described by the employer, the worker had worked less than 40 hours in the workweek and the minimum wage would still be received, even if the employer did not pay additional straight time.

In his response, Navarro noted that if an employee receives at least the minimum wage for all hours worked, including the time during a missed meal period, no additional compensation is due under the FLSA.

The letter noted that FLSA regulations require accurate recordkeeping of hours worked each workday, as well as total hours worked each workweek for covered and nonexempt employees.

The opinion letter is available here .