A recent opinion letter from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) addressed the issues of missed meal breaks, overtime, and rounding off time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In responding to an employer’s questions about its break and meal policy, the DOL offered these guidelines:
- No additional compensation is due if an employee misses an unpaid meal break but still works fewer than 40 hours in the workweek, as long as “the employee’s total wages for the workweek divided by the compensable hours worked equal or exceed the applicable minimum wage.”
- If an employee works more than 40 hours as a result of missing an unpaid meal break, the time worked during the missed meal break must be counted for purposes of determining overtime pay. As the DOL observed, “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 … ”
- If an employee begins work before or finishes after their regularly scheduled hours but works less than 40 hours in the workweek, the employee is not entitled to additional compensation as long as “the employee’s total wages for the workweek divided by the compensable hours worked equal or exceed the applicable minimum wage.”
- If an employee receives certain types of overtime premium pay (e.g., for work in excess of specified daily or weekly work periods, or for working certain special days), the extra compensation does not need to be included in the employee’s regular rate of pay for purposes of calculating overtime pay. Furthermore, the extra compensation may be credited toward any required overtime payments.
- An employer may round off time to the nearest five minutes, tenth of an hour, or even quarter of an hour, as long as over a period of time the employee is compensated properly for all time actually worked.
The DOL uses its Web site to publish these opinion letters, which offer the department’s interpretation of the FLSA on particular situations. We expect this opinion letter to appear there soon.
(Courtesy of Shaw and Rosenthal of the Worklaw® Network)