Automatic Deduction for Employee Lunch Hour Could Cause FLSA Violation

Since members may use timekeeping systems that automatically deduct time from the employees paycheck for mealtime breaks, based on a message from the American Health Care Association, providers should be aware that this could cause potential Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) violation accusations unless certain best practices are established. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Fact Sheet #53, “The Health Care Industry and Hours Worked,” makes clear that meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more) are not work time, and a provider does not have to pay employees for these breaks. The provider must, however, completely relieve the employee from any duties; otherwise, the employer must pay the employee during the mealtime period. If an employee is interrupted, even for the shortest amount of time during a mealtime period, then the provider must pay the employee for the entire period.

Over the years it has become common practice for providers to program time clocks to automatically deduct mealtimes. In order to avoid any potential FLSA violation, providers must implement practices that allow employees the opportunity to report if/when they are interrupted by residents or other staff during their mealtime breaks. Best practices for avoiding potential FLSA violations include requiring the employee to clock in/out: a) for lunch, and restricting the ability of the employee to clock back in prior to the full 30-minute (or longer time period) provided for the mealtime break, or b) at the end of their shift and allowing them to respond to automatic prompts about whether or not they were interrupted at lunch.