Fort Worth unpaid wages lawyer: Does Texas require employers to give employees breaks or lunches?
Texas labor and employment law has no general rule requiring breaks or lunches no matter how long you work. Because Texas lacks state specific laws on break and lunch periods, it defaults to federal law. Federal law also generally does not require breaks or a lunch period. An employee in Texas must receive a break or lunch if there is an employment contract specifically stating such requirements. Unless you are a union employee or have a contract then you are largely at the mercy of your employer’s discretion. Under the Affordable Healthcare Act, breastfeeding mothers must be given reasonable (but unpaid) break time for breastfeeding or expressing breast milk. Otherwise, breaks may be necessary as an accommodation to a disability or for a religious practice.
There are some limitations on how an employer may treat rest periods in Dallas and Fort Worth
Employers may not discriminate in permitting rest periods. This means an employer may not offer some employees rest periods based on sex, age, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, disability, or veteran status. However, an employer could offer rest periods based on a uniform policy, business needs, productivity, etc.
Break and lunch wages rules in Texas
Any rest periods designated as non-meal or non-lunch periods – typically referred to as “breaks” – are paid rest periods. These are usually breaks lasting less than twenty minutes. Employers may place limitations on what you can do during non-meal periods to a reasonable extent. If you abuse the employer’s break policy and take extended breaks the employer may be able to revoke pay for this period, depending upon where you were and what you did during the break. At a minimum the employer is well within its right to invoke disciplinary action for violating company policy.
Any rest periods designated as meal or lunch periods – periods of thirty minutes or more – can be unpaid. To be unpaid time the employee must be completely relieved of any work-related responsibilities. This is where a lot of employers obtain free work from their employees. If you are on a lunch but still working then you must receive pay for that time. It is also attributable to the hours calculated for overtime pay. This includes answering emails or phone calls, reading work documents, watching training videos, listening in on conference calls and anything else you might do.
Contact Fort Worth and Dallas employment lawyers
If you perform services for the benefit of your employer during lunch you must receive pay. The employer may discipline you for violating policy by working on your lunch but wages. If your employer violates your rights by unlawfully denying you breaks or lunches then you need to contact an employment lawyer in Fort Worth or Dallas ASAP. Contact my office to discuss your situation.
Adam Kielich is an employment attorney, divorce lawyer and principal attorney at The Kielich Law Firm in Bedford, Texas. The Kielich Law Firm represents clients in employment law and family law matters across the Dallas and Fort Worth area. Attorney Adam Kielich helps clients with employment discrimination, wrongful termination, overtime pay, FMLA, contested and uncontested divorce, modifications, QDROs and more.