We often break up the stress and anxiety of a long day at work with regular breaks and meals. These moments of rest can make all the difference during a long shift. Sadly, not all employers offer reasonable breaks. Additionally, there may be disputes over what constitutes a paid and unpaid break, which can result in lawsuits over unpaid wages and improper compensation for work performed.
The team at our Dallas, TX law firm would like to consider state and federal laws regarding break times and meal times. We at the Law Offices of Dan A. Atkerson will stand with you to ensure your workplace is treating you and your co-workers fairly.
What Are the Texas Laws on Meals and Breaks?
While some states have laws regarding meals and breaks, not all of them do. Texas does not have any state specific rules regarding paid or unpaid meals and breaks for employees.
What Does That Mean for Employers?
Since no Texas state laws are on the books regarding meals and breaks, employer are not required to offer meals and breaks unless noted by federal laws. This is where national labor laws come into play, and must be followed by all companies and employers in the state of Texas.
Additionally, this means that employees do have some protections from being overworked without reasonable breaks or meals.
Federal Laws on Breaks
Breaks are of a short duration as they are considered to help boost productivity or allow for sanitary working conditions.
Here are some guidelines regarding different kinds of breaks:
- Coffee Breaks - A paid break lasting 20 minutes or less, these breaks involve grabbing a beverage or quick snack or simply giving an employee a chance to rest before returning to normal job duties.
- Smoking Breaks - While not required by law, smoking breaks are paid and generally classified as a type of rest break.
- Nursing/Breast-Pumping Breaks - Pumping milk or nursing a child is a break for women on the job who need to express milk. Reasonable break times and accommodations should be made by the employer.
So long as employees do not abuse their break privileges, these should be allowed simply out of courtesy and common sense.
Federal Laws on Meals/Lunch Breaks
Lunch breaks and meals refer to unpaid breaks that last 30 minutes or longer. During these times, employees will be fully relieved of their duties, meaning that they do not need to work through their lunch period. Working through lunch should be paid activity.
Disputes Over What Constitutes a Break/Meal
Sometimes there are disputes over meals and breaks at a workplace, which can lead to major clashes between an employee and their employer. Examples include an employer insisting that rest breaks should not be paid time. Other examples include forcing employees to work through their lunch unpaid or not making reasonable accommodations for women to express milk while on the job.
What to Do If Federal Meal and Break Laws Are Not Followed?
If meal and break laws are not observed, it’s important to bring this up with your supervisor or the human resources department. Complaints can also be made to the Texas Workforce Commission, who can look into your case and offer insight on how to proceed. Our law firm is also here to listen and to offer our own insight on how you should proceed.
Contact a Workplace Law Attorney
For more information about your legal rights and options when meal and break rules are violated, be sure to contact an experienced employment law attorney. We at the Law Offices of Dan A. Atkerson can help. You can reach us by phone at (214) 617-1327.