Friday, December 5, 2008

Clamor for Paid Meals Breaks

Meal breaks are important to employees. It is a time to nourish their body in order to regain strength. Consequently, they are able to work effectively and efficiently.

Typically, meal breaks are not compensable unless the employee is made to work or has done tasks in favor of or advantageous to the employer.

In 2007, two employees of Baptist Memorial Hospital of Memphis initially filed a suit against the latter. The complainants claimed that Baptist’s employees were made to work during their lunch breaks or called for duty during meals.

In California, the law mandates that employers should provide their employees adequate meal breaks. It means that after a 5-hour work, the employee should have at least a 30 minutes uninterrupted meal break. If work is rendered during said break, the same should be paid. Employers who fail to implement or observe this can be penalized for labor law violations of this vital federal provision on meal and rest breaks.

Meal period of less than 30 minutes should be considered “on duty” hence compensable. An “on duty” meal period is a valid employment practice only when the nature of the works prevents an employee from doing something and when such arrangement is agreed upon by the parties.

Any act of the employer not in consonance with the law is illegal and may be the subject of litigation.