Many jobs require people to work eight hours or more per shift. As a result, many workers will eat one or more of their meals during the workday. Employees generally have the right to take meal breaks, but many employers nonetheless regularly deny their employees the right of stopping to eat during the day. Additionally, some employers will unlawfully deduct wages from their employees’ pay for breaks that were not taken. Both acts constitute unlawful employment practices, and people whose rights have been violated by their employers may be able to pursue claims for damages. If you were denied meal breaks or appropriate pay by your employer, the dedicated New York wage and hour lawyers at Gerstman Schwartz can advise you on your potential claims and gather the evidence needed to help you pursue a successful outcome.Laws Pertaining to Meal Breaks
There are no federal laws or rules that expressly provide employees with the right to take meal breaks. Federal labor regulations dictate that employee rest periods of five to 20 minutes are common and are typically paid as work time. They must be counted as compensable time as well. Under the federal regulations, bona fide meal breaks, which are usually 30 minutes or more, do not count as work time. They will not be considered a break, though, if the employee is expected to work while eating.
Unlike federal rules and statutes, New York law specifically grants employees the right to take breaks. The amount of time provided varies depending on the nature of the employee’s work. Per New York law, the lunch period extends from 11 am to 2 pm. People who work in or in connection with factories must be granted at least an hour for lunch. If they work a shift that is longer than six hours and starts between 1 pm and 6 am, they will be granted at least an hour for a meal during that time as well. People employed in mercantile or other occupations that must comply with laws regarding meal breaks must be granted at least 30 minutes per day for lunch, but if they work the shift that begins between 1 pm and 6 am, they are granted 45 minutes.
The law also generally provides that people who work shifts that are longer than six hours and extend over the lunch period have the right to take at least 30 minutes off for a meal while they are working. Additionally, people who work from before 11 am until after 7 pm will be granted a meal break of at least 20 minutes between 5 and 7 pm. Shorter meal periods may be permitted by the Department of Labor, but notice regarding the modified times must be posted in writing at the main entrance of the workplace.Claims Related to Meal Breaks
Many employers fail to abide by the law and engage in actions that ultimately harm their employees. For example, they may deduct time from their employees' paychecks even if they work through lunch, essentially denying them compensation for time worked. Employers may also refuse to permit employees to take meal breaks, even though they have the right to do so under the law. In some cases, employers that fail to give their workers meal breaks will nonetheless subtract time from their hours worked, resulting in lost wages. Such practices are unlawful, since employers are required to compensate employees for their work.Discuss Your Potential Claims With a Seasoned New York Attorney
Employees have legally protected rights, including the option to take breaks to eat, and if their employers infringe on these rights, they may be deemed civilly liable. If you were denied meal breaks by your employer, you should discuss your options with a lawyer. At Gerstman Schwartz, our seasoned wage and hour attorneys are skilled at helping employees protect their interests, and if you engage our services, we will fight to help you pursue your desired outcome. We frequently assist people in wage and hour lawsuits in New York City and in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. You can contact us to set up a meeting via our online form or by calling our New York City office at (212) 227-7070 or our Garden City office at (516) 880-8170.