Our recent lawsuits highlight the risk that companies face when applying auto-deduction policies for meal breaks and lunch breaks. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) allows employers to automatically deduct 30 minutes from compensable time for meal breaks for hourly employees. The meal break must be free from all job duties. If the employee have to work during the meal breaks or lunch breaks, the employer has to provide the employee a procedure exists to reverse the automatic deduction.
Example of auto-deduct lawsuits
We were successful in filing and obtaining conditional certification on behalf of warehouse workers who’s 30-minute lunch deduction occurred regardless of whether the meal break was taken. We alledged that that the employees were routinely prohibited from either taking an uninterrupted meal break or canceling the automatic deduction.
In another lawsuit, we sued the employer on behalf of custodians who were subjected to auto-deduction for lunch breaks even though the worked through lunch.
In both cases, the employers implemented auto-deduct policies for meal breaks without any procedures to prevent supervisors from interrupting employees during their meal breaks or demanding that they work through their meal breaks in order to get the work done. The high work load, inadequate or inefficient staffing forced employees to do cut their meal breaks short or skip lunch breaks altogether. When the auto-deductions were applied, the employees were shorted up to 2.5 hours a week of overtime.