- An army contractor and two subcontractors will pay more than $1.1 million to settle claims they violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to pay workers for 15-minute rest breaks (Joseph Waggoner, et al. v. VSE Corporation, et al. No. 5:18-cv-00058 (E.D. Tex. June 16, 2020)).
- The settlement will be paid to 773 class members, who alleged they were not paid for rest breaks between May 2017 and June 2018.
- The plaintiffs argued that such paid breaks are common in the industry and must be paid, in accordance with FLSA regulations. The defendants, in settling the claim, said any violations were not willful and that they had reasonable grounds to believe they were in compliance with the law.
Rest and meal breaks are a common subject of wage and hour litigation.
Federal law does not require short rest breaks, according to guidance published by the U.S. Department of Labor. "However, when employers do offer short breaks (usually lasting about 5 to 20 minutes), federal law considers the breaks as compensable work hours that would be included in the sum of hours worked during the work week and considered in determining if overtime was worked," the agency says.
Meal breaks can be unpaid. But if a meal break is disrupted, which happens frequently in industries such as healthcare and construction, an employee must be compensated for the time worked.
In particular, employers can get into trouble by automatically deducting pay for workers’ meal breaks. While this practice is not necessarily illegal, it can easily lead to violations of the FLSA, attorneys previously told HR Dive.