Nowadays, many employers use an automatic 30-minute meal period deduction in its time keeping program that automatically deducts 30 minutes of time per shift. Sometimes, employees do not even realize that their employer is deducting 30 minutes from their time cards each day. However, what happens when an employee continues to work through these 30 minute meal breaks? While federal courts have ruled that automatic meal break time keeping programs do not per se violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), the burden remains solely on the employer to maintain accurate records of its employees’ hours.
Federal courts have held that where an employer knows or has reason to believe that an employee is continuing to work through the meal break, the time must be considered working time. Where an employer knows or has reason to believe an employee is working through meal breaks, the employer cannot stand idly by and allow an employee to perform overtime work without proper compensation – even if the employee does not make a claim for the overtime compensation.
Employees should carefully review their time records to make sure the records accurately show the hours that they worked. If their employer is automatically deducting meal breaks from the time records and the employee is not actually taking a break, the employee could not only be entitled to lost wages and overtime pay but also liquidated damages (“double damages”) and attorneys’ fees and costs.