Auto-deducted lunch breaks land employer in hot water
- Lubbock County Hospital District, doing business as University Medical Center, has paid $119,175 in back wages to 197 emergency room workers to settle wage and hour claims stemming from automatically deducted lunch breaks, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
- Investigators from DOL's Wage and Hour Division found that the hospital, based in Lubbock, Texas, automatically deducted 30 minutes for lunch from the emergency room staff's timesheets — regardless of whether they took a lunch break. This created a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime violation in instances where the employees worked through their lunch break, DOL said.
- The agency said the medical center also violated the FLSA's recordkeeping requirements by failing to accurately track break time.
The FLSA doesn't explicitly prohibit automatic deductions, but they can be risky, experts say. The law requires that employees be paid for all hours worked, and that employers maintain accurate records about those hours.
Employers that use exceptions timekeeping should ensure that managers and employees are properly trained on the employer's requirements. For example, they must sign off on time records, according to U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulations and should be encouraged to report any deviations.
During the previous administration, the U.S. Department of Labor said in a guidance that employers need only record employees' total hours worked — not their exact start and stop times. Experts, however, cautioned against this practice, warning employers that it might not meet the agency's "complete and accurate" standard.