The Federal Practice Group Blog


Federal Employment and Break Laws

Posted By fedpractice || 29-Oct-2012

If you are working for a government agency, you are entitled to take breaks during your work day to refresh and recuperate. The Fair Labor Standards Act mandates that your employer can offer you short rest breaks during your work day that last between five and twenty minutes. These breaks are typically reserved for using the restroom, eating, or smoking. Neither the FLSA nor federal laws mandate that all employers need to provide this break. Depending on the type of occupation concerned it may be wise or unwise to provide this break for employees.

For example, construction workers often get fatigued in the hot hours of the day, and a twenty minute break in the middle of the day may benefit them and even cause a better work production. However, an employee who works in a cubicle for the federal government may not need those breaks. Regardless of whether or not an employer has allowed these rest breaks, the employees must be paid for them. The company or agency cannot cut pay out for these breaks.

The federal employment laws define meal breaks as a time taken when the worker has no job-related responsibilities. These breaks normally have to be between 30 minutes and one hour. If an employee is asked to forego a lunch break or eat lunch while still performing work-related tasks, then it does not qualify as a meal break. Employers can ask their workers to stay at the job site during meal breaks if they please, and employers are not required to provide a meal break if they prefer not to. As well, employees do not need to be paid for their meal breaks, as these are not hours worked.

In some cases, a worker who has a 24-hour shift may need to take a break to sleep. In these cases, Federal employment laws do not mandate that employers provide these sleeping breaks. Yet if the worker arranges a break with his employer, then he or she can take the break and forego the pay that would be issued during those hours. The FSLA says that sleeping hours are not hours worked, and sleeping breaks are considered between 5 and 8 hours.

As well, an employer at a government place of employment may be permitted to take health breaks if he or she needs to rest due to an illness or disability. These breaks were put in place by the ADA which is designed to prevent discrimination in the workplace against those who have special needs. Employers are required to make special accommodations for these people. For example, if a worker has diabetes, then he or she has the right to take a break to eat a snack or check blood levels. AS well, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration rules that an employer is nor allowed to impose unreasonable restrictions on an employee’s use of the toilet facilities. If an employer denounces bathroom breaks or will not allow his or her workers to use the facilities when needed, it is an issue that can be taken to court.

If you have been abused in the area of breaks at your workplace, and have expressed concerns to a boss who has not made efforts to change, then you need to contact a lawyer at The Federal Practice Group The federal employment lawyers at this firm will help you to deal with your case when it is concerning a government agency that has employed you. You will want to work closely with a knowledgeable lawyer who can work through your case in a tactful way. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that your place of employment is a government agency, seek justice with the help of an attorney from our firm!

Categories: Employment Law, Federal Employment Law