Understanding Federal Labor Laws
Break requirements vary depending on which state your business operates within. Every business is required to make sure they understand labor standards and are current in their labor law compliance.
In fact, failure to comply with labor laws may cost you up to $10,000 in financial penalties. In addition to financial penalties, you may be personally liable to serve jail time for labor law violations incurred by your business.
If provisions the laws require are not satisfied, you may need to go to court on behalf of your business. Court fines, legal fees, and settlement charges are just some of the financial consequences that you may face when you do not provide employees with legal working conditions.
In some cases of non-compliance, employers must provide employees with back payments, including any interest accumulated, in addition to all lost benefits.
A high-profile court case can damage your brand and company reputation which can result in massively negative effects on your business's long-term bottom-line profitability.
When you break laws whether intentionally or unintentionally, the consequences are steep and unforgiving for both yourself and your business.
Understanding federal, state, and local labor laws are a nonnegotiable responsibility for every business owner to undertake.
Although the Fair Labor Standards Act does not require a meal break or rest break be provided to employees, employers who provide employees with breaks must follow certain rules. For example, employee rest breaks that exceed twenty minutes must be compensated.
A meal period break that exceeds thirty minutes is complicated by whether the employee works in any capacity during it. It doesn't help that 39% of employees report they do not usually leave their office desk while they eat their lunch.
28% of employees report they sparsely or never take meal breaks or rest breaks at work. These employees may be a huge liability to rest break law compliance depending on what state an employee works within.
In California, nonexempt employees who exceed five hours worked are entitled to a 30 minute meal break. If work hours do not exceed six hours, employees are able to waive their break if it is explicitly documented in a written agreement that both an employer and their employees previously signed.
There are also additional labor standards to consider for certain states ranging from breastfeeding breaks to mandatory days of rest. For example, New York and California both have laws that require employers to provide breastfeeding breaks.
How to Manage Breaks to Abide by Federal Labor Laws
Employers must be eager to ensure their workplaces meet labor standards to avoid the severe legal, financial, and brand reputation consequences of labor law noncompliance.
There are two main reasons for employers to make sure their employees are properly taking necessary break time including-
1. Employee benefit- Rest periods improve employee motivation, decision-making skills, creativity, and productivity. When you do not provide employees with any type of rest period they are at risk of high-stress levels and burnout.
2. Legal compliance- Federal laws do not require that an employee is provided with a meal break or rest break but some state laws do require breaks.
However, it is important to note that federal laws do require employers to compensate their employees for any overtime hours worked at a rate of at least 1.5x their standard hourly rate.
Many different federal and state laws must be considered in order for employers to most comprehensively comply with break requirements and labor standards. Beyond providing employees with breaks, employers may track that breaks were actually taken.
Best practice tips for tracking employee breaks include-
- Establish guidelines- Provide employees with clear meal break and rest break guidelines. Take into consideration cell phone usage and cigarette smoking policies including how far away smokers must stand from your establishment.
If you chose to provide meal discounts or free food during meal breaks make sure you understand the tax implications that may arise.
To the best of your ability, schedule rest periods and meal breaks so that they do not overlap and create issues with business operations.
- Educate employees- Employees work best with explicit instructions and guidelines. From the time an employee is hired, they should be provided with clear expectations regarding meal breaks and rest breaks.
Make sure to present employees with important information regarding federal and state labor laws to assure they comprehend their rights.
- Tracking employees- If you must provide records in the future about employee breaks taken, time tracking software can be incredibly valuable. While some POS systems include time tracking software capabilities, others do not.