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Can My Florida Employer Automatically Deduct My Lunch Breaks From My Paycheck?

LunchTime

Are you an hourly employee in Florida whose employer automatically deducts lunch breaks from your paycheck, regardless as to whether you take the break or how long your break may be? If so, is this legal?

In short, an employer may deduct a lunch break from your paycheck, but within limitations. Your employer may only deduct the amount of time that you actually take for the break and only when your “break” means that you are completely relieved from duties and at rest. Under the law, a “break” is not really a break when you are eating your lunch at your desk and still required to answer the phone or greet clients. Similarly, it is not proper under the law for the employer to deduct an hour break from your paycheck every day if you are taking anything less than an hour break, for example. We explain in more detail below.

Federal Law Does Not Require an Employee to Receive Compensation for Meal Breaks 

First, it is important to note that not all employees in Florida are covered under federal pay law, like the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Department of Labor provides information about who is covered under the Act.

To the extent you are covered under the Act, the law provides that you must be paid for any breaks under 30 minutes. However, if your break is more than 30 minutes – and you are completely relieved from all your duties – your employer is not obligated to pay you for that time. But, the minute you return to work, you should be back on the clock to be paid. What happens when the breaks add up to 30 minutes?

For example, if your employer gives you two, 15 minute breaks at work each day – should those be paid breaks? Yes, because those breaks are less than 30 minutes. You must be paid for both breaks. What about if you get to take a lunch break (and even if you are completely relived from duties), but the break is less than 30 minutes? The law requires that you are paid for that time.

What about if your employer does not offer breaks at all? Are you entitled to a meal break or rest break in Florida? Unfortunately, no.  Federal law does not require meal/rest breaks and Florida is one state which does not require paid rest periods or meal breaks for employees.  However, when breaks are provided or when you take a break, if it is less than 30 minutes, you must be paid.

What Can I Get If I’m Not Being Properly Paid

If your employer is not properly paying you in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, such as automatically deducting a lunch you are not taking or deducting more time than the break you take, you may be entitled to unpaid wages and liquidated damages for the monies you should have received.

Conclusion 

If you have questions about your wages, breaks, or employment in Florida, you should discuss them with an experienced Florida wage and hour attorney.

Resources:

dol.gov/whd/state/rest.htm#Florida

dol.gov/general/topic/workhours/breaks

dol.gov/whd/opinion/FLSANA/2007/2007_05_14_01NA_FLSA.htm

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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