One of the more common forms of wage theft happens when the employ is forced or pressured to work through his or her lunch or other work breaks. There are many ways that this could happen, but it is illegal, and you cannot be forced to work without being paid for your time and work.
You were working your shift at a tire and lube center and realize it is particularly busy. There are customers with cars needing oil changes and service. Your team is short-staffed for the day, so you continue to work through lunch to make sure the customers are taken care of. When you get your paycheck, you realize that you were not paid for that hour. Instead, they deducted that hour as if you had taken your lunch break.
You may be working in a store and because of employees calling in, your manager may tell you that you cannot take a lunch break. You continue to help customers and ring up orders throughout your shift. When you get paid, you realize that you weren’t paid for that hour. Any time that you spend working for your employer should be counted toward your hours and you should be paid for it.
What Breaks Are Employers Required To Give?
There are breaks required by law. If your employer doesn’t ensure you receive these breaks, they are breaking the law. Most employers provide a lunch break or rest break for their workers. Some companies offer paid lunches and others are unpaid. However, this isn’t required everywhere. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t make it mandatory for employers to give their employees rest or meal breaks. But some states have set laws that require breaks, while other states haven’t set such laws.
If you get breaks, your employer isn’t required to pay you for them unless the state laws where they are require your employer to pay you for them, or you have to work through your break. Usually, if your break is 20 minutes or less, it is a shorter break and is considered part of your workday, so you will be paid for it. You should familiarize yourself with the state laws where you live and work, and, also be familiar with company policy.
Fewer than half the states have laws in place that require meal breaks. In those states, employees must work more than 5 or 6 hours at a time to be given a half-hour break for a meal. Some states prohibit employers from giving the employees the time off at the beginning or at the end of their work shift. There are some states that require employers to give their employees rest breaks during their workday. Most of these states indicate the employee take a 10-minute rest break with pay for every 4 hours that they work. Some states allow employers to choose between giving rest breaks or meal breaks, and some states only require break time for bathroom trips.
While it is handled on a case by case basis as to whether or not you are entitled to breaks and the length of those breaks, you should speak with an employment lawyer about your situation. If you are working, you should be paid for the time.
What Should I Do If I Am Being Forced To Work Through My Breaks?
If you are being forced to work through your breaks, or if you are working through your breaks and not being paid for them, you should do some research on the state laws regarding breaks. You should review your employee handbook and any other pertinent documents from your employer. Review what was outlined in your employment contract. Also, keep copies of any memos, emails, and other documents that detail your work requirements and pay.
You should collect copies of any timesheets or timecards and your paystubs. These will need to be compared to see how much you worked and how that compares to what you worked. This will be the supporting evidence to show how much you were shorted of your pay. There is a statute of limitations or a time limit for filing any employment law claim, including those that pertain to wage theft.
Enlist the help of a wage theft attorney who is licensed in your state. Wage theft lawyers work on a contingency basis, so you will not have to pay anything upfront. Complete the Free Case Evaluation Form to have the details of your case reviewed by an attorney in your area.