The Fair Labor Standards Act also popularly called as the FLSA, formulates the obligations of employers with regard to minimum wage, working hour and child labor. The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor is the authority that enforces the FLSA, and takes action on employee complaints by investigating the employer policies and record maintenance methods. Though the federal law deals on short breaks given to employees besides longer meal breaks, it does not mandate the employers to provide them. Federal labor law posters 2013 surely will have this regulation if you want to notice.
Federal does not talk about giving a lunch break. However, it deals on compensation for time off for meals on a typical workday. The FLSA states that if the employer requires the services of an employee while eating lunch, then then the lunch period must be considered as compensable time that cannot be deducted from the number of hours worked. For instance, if the shipping clerk munches a sandwich in between attending to calls from suppliers and accepting deliveries, then the employer should not deem this unpaid time as the clerk is still at work.
Though federal laws do not mandate coffee or restroom breaks, they do contain some references to guide the duration of a short break if it is a paid time when compared to meals breaks. The Labor Department says breaks lasting over five to twenty minutes can be paid time, while longer breaks like meals break need not be paid time provided the employer relieves the employees from all work related responsibilities while they are eating lunch. Though federal laws talk of lunch breaks as lasting over about 30 minutes, it is not deemed forced time as the federal law does not require it.
Policies with regard to workplaces significantly differ and a given organization is free to abide by the set of policies that helps streamlining its operations. For instance, though employers cannot literally compel an employee to eat, you can expect that the employee takes time away from work during scheduled lunch break. Irrespective of whether the state law talks of it, employers can deem this as a workplace guideline. The advantage of this policy is that the employees relieved of all their work related responsibilities over a defined period of time. It also rules out any questions as to which employee needs to be paid for the lunch break thereby simplifying payroll and employee scheduling.
Employers must abide by both federal and state laws. Though it is not mandatory for a company to provide time off for lunch as per the federal law, it must however act as per state laws, many of which prescribe lunch breaks for employees. With respect to employee's shift, some state laws even ask the employers to provide 30 to 60 minutes for a lunch period that is not paid. Under certain conditions, the employee can waive this time, however it enables employers strongly motivate employees to take time off to rejuvenate before working for the remaining shift time.