Texas law and federal employment law do not require employers to provide meal and rest breaks. Therefore, if your employer doesn’t schedule meal and rest breaks, it isn’t breaking the law. However, if you perform work during unpaid “breaks,” you should lawfully receive compensation for all of the time you worked by seeking the legal counsel of an Austin meal and rest breaks lawyer.

Paid Versus Unpaid Breaks

Federal law requires employers to pay employees for all hours worked, including times an employer designates as “breaks,” unless the break is 20 minutes or longer. If your employer allows short breaks (5-20 minutes) during the day, these breaks are considered part of the workday and you should receive pay for that time. If your employer deducts time from your payable hours for breaks that are shorter than 20 minutes, or for longer breaks such as meal breaks that you actually work through, you may be owed pay at your regular rate or overtime pay if you worked more than 40 hours a week.

A common way many employers commit wage theft is by failing to pay for work done during meal and rest breaks. For example, if your employer doesn’t pay you for a lunch break but you actually work during that time, the employer must pay you for the time you work.

The Texas Payday Law doesn’t address the issue of rest or meal breaks at work. Your employer has free rein to set work schedules, including or not including breaks. Employers generally decide the need to provide breaks depending on the business’ demands. If the company does give breaks to employees, the U.S. Department of Labor has guidelines your employer must abide by.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, if an employer gives meal and rest breaks of 20 minutes or less, it must compensate its employees. Short breaks promote enhanced productivity and workplace efficiency. Employees who receive lunch breaks that are at least 30 minutes long and designed for the purpose of eating a meal (where the employee is relieved of duties) shouldn’t expect compensation.

If you’re confused as to whether your employer should have paid you for a break, ask your employer. If you aren’t given a clear answer, contact a local Austin meal and rest breaks lawyer for further consultation.

What if My Employer Fails to Pay Me for Breaks?

If you know your employer is supposed to pay you for breaks—such as a lunch break you worked through—but your paycheck doesn’t reflect the time, don’t assume it’s wage theft. If it’s an isolated incident, it may be a mistake. However, if your employer has never paid you for these breaks and you’re realizing it for the first time, it’s wise to contact a knowledgeable employment law attorney in Austin, TX.

Discussing your employment rights with a local attorney can help you understand the fiscal responsibility your employer has to you. If the courts find your employer guilty of wage theft regarding meal and rest breaks, you may obtain compensation for lost wages up to the date of your trial, should that be necessary, as well as for your attorney fees and other damages.

Contact an Austin Meal and Rest Breaks Lawyer

Wage theft is a serious accusation and should be handled by a professional attorney. For more information, look for a qualified, experienced attorney in Texas. Contact Ross • Scalise Employment Lawyers to discuss your situation with a skilled attorney who can tell you if you’re a victim of wage theft.