August 05, 2008
US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter on Break and Meal Periods
Filed under: News
Vision Payroll

The US Department of Labor recently issued non-Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2008-7NA. Although Opinion Letters only apply to the exact set of facts and circumstances presented in each case, they are a valuable aid in understanding current interpretations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Unlike signed Opinion Letters, unsigned Opinion Letters do not “provide a potential good faith reliance defense for violations of the FLSA.” This Opinion Letter, in a question and answer format, discusses written policies regarding break and meal periods. The conclusions are as follows: 1) An employee, in violation of company policy, did not take a meal break or notify his supervisor that he did not take a break during a week in which he worked less than forty hours. No additional compensation is due the employee as long as he receives at least minimum wage for all hours worked, including the missed meal break. 2) The missed meal break that was worked counts toward the forty hour threshold for paying overtime to non-exempt employees. If the employee works more than forty hours, “the employee must be must be paid for all hours worked at the agreed rate plus the overtime premium.” 3) The answers to Q1 and Q2 are the same if, instead of missing a meal break, the employee arrives to work early or leaves work late in violation of written policy. 4) A written advisory to the employee not to work “unrecorded work hours” and that such work would subject the employee to disciplinary action is not necessarily enough to change the answer to Q3. Generally, it is management’s responsibility to make sure that such work should not be performed. 5) An employee receives time and one half pay that is not required under the FLSA, but paid due to company policy or contractual obligation, e.g., the employee is paid the premium if he works more than eight hours in a day. This premium may be credited toward any overtime premium required under the FLSA. Also, the additional pay does not need to be included in the calculation of the employee’s “regular” rate that is used to calculate the overtime premium. 6) Wages may be paid based on a methodology that rounds time worked “to the nearest five minutes, or the nearest one tenth or quarter of an hour” as long as, in the long run, the system does not fail to compensate employees properly for time worked. State laws may provide rules that are more beneficial to the employee and must be followed. Contact Vision Payroll if you have questions about this Opinion Letter.


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