Technically no, your employer does not have to give you paid breaks, at least not in Alabama; but there is more to it than that. Like all issues of fair labor, you have to first start by looking at federal law. If there is a federal requirement, then the states must either follow it or create stricter and more protective rules. States are not allowed to have requirements that provide fewer protections than the minimum standards set forth by the federal government. Breaks are one of these areas in which the federal rule is applied in Alabama, because the state does not have a more protective law in place.
If you suspect your employer is stealing your hard-earned money through unfair wage violations, call Five Points law Group today.
Federal Rules for Breaks and Meals
Under federal labor laws, your employer in Alabama is required to pay you:
- For all work performed
- No less than the minimum wage set by the federal government
- Overtime compensation for hours worked in excess of forty in a work week.
Under the federal rule, employers are actually not required to give you rest time for breaks and meals; however, “rest periods of short duration, running from 5 minutes to about 20 minutes, are common in industry. …. They must be counted as hours worked.”
Lunch breaks, however, can be unpaid if they last longer than 30 minutes. Employers often deduct thirty minutes from an employee’s clock-in and clock-out time worked for a meal period. However, the employer must ensure that “the employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purposes of eating regular meals. Ordinarily 30 minutes or more is long enough for a bona fide meal period. A shorter period may be long enough under special conditions. The employee is not relieved if he is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating.” If your employer is deducting time from your recorded work hours, but you are working through your meal period or not completely relieved from your job duties during a meal period, call Allen D. Arnold of the Five Points Law Group, as your employer may be denying you overtime compensation.
In 2010, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, federal law was amended to require employers to provide reasonable breaks so that mothers could pump breast milk for a nursing child. This requires employers to allow this for up to one year after birth of the child. The law also requires:
- A private place other than a restroom
- The location for expressing milk should be private and not visible to other employees or the public
When Things Go Wrong
Even though Alabama has some of the least restrictive wage and employment laws in the country, some employers still feel the need to violate their employees’ basic rights under federal guidelines. While meals and break time may not seem like a big deal, they can become a big deal quickly. Consider what happens when an employer makes you count your break time as off-the-clock. You may be working an extra 30 – 60 minutes every day beyond your standard eight-hour shift. If, based on your unique circumstances, this causes you to work an hour of overtime each day, then at the end of a standard work year (261 business days), you could be owed as much as 261 hours of overtime pay, which for many people must be paid at time and a half — and this is just a conservative estimate.
If you feel your rights are being violated at work, give Five Points Law Group a call, and speak with our employment attorneys today.