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Jan16

Texas – 15 Minute Break

I understand that in Texas the 15 minute break is not mandatory. At my company, the  employer does offer 2 paid 15 minute breaks during an 8 hour work day. However, employees have been told that during this break, they are not permitted to leave the premises. Can the employer dictate what the employees can do/where they can go during the break?

Thanks,
Robin

Short answer: yes. An employer can legally require that an employee remain on the premises during a paid break.

In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, an employer can legally require that an employee remain on the premises even during an unpaid meal break of 30 minutes or more.

It would be very unusual for an employer to allow workers to leave the premises during a paid break. For one thing, while employees are “on the clock” they are covered under Workers Comp insurance. Should the employee be in an accident while away from work on break, it would create legal problems. The employer must pay for the injury because the employee was injured during work time. However, the Workers Comp insurance company would likely refuse to pay for it, because the employee was off the premises, and not working.

If, heaven forbid, the employee should cause an auto accident or other liability situation, the employer could legitimately be sued…because the employee was “working” at the time.

There is no Texas break law, so the relevant statute is the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, or FLSA, the oldest and most basic federal labor law.

As you know by now, neither federal nor Texas law requires employers to give workers any lunch or coffee breaks. Most employers give breaks because they increase productivity, not because they are legally obligated to.

However, when employers do offer short breaks of 5 to 20 minutes, under federal law, these are work time that must be paid.

Bona fide meal periods (typically lasting at least 30 minutes), serve a different purpose than coffee or snack breaks and, thus, are not work time and are not compensable.

Under federal law, employers are not obligated to pay for unauthorized extensions of work breaks, if a) the extension is contrary to the employer’s work rules and b) the policy and any punishment has been clearly communicated to the employee.

To return to the question, according to the federal regulation on unpaid meal breaks, “It is not necessary that an employee be permitted to leave the premises if he is otherwise completely freed from duties during the meal period.” It is certainly not necessary that employees be permitted to leave the premises during shorter paid work breaks.

The employer also has the right to set reasonable limits on what the employee can do during his/her breaks. If the employer has established a smoke-free workplace, the employee can’t smoke, even during his or her break. Another example: at most workplaces, it wouldn’t be appropriate for an employee to wash his/her hair on break, or play loud music with offensive lyrics, even if he or she was on break.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 at 2:31 pm and is filed under
Attendance Management, Benefits, Human Resources Management.
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10 Responses to “Texas – 15 Minute Break”

  1. MARGARITA Says:

    Is it LAW: EMPLOYEE MUST TO TAKE A BRAKE 15 MINUTS EVERY 4 HOURS, AND MUST TO BE PAID AS A WORK TIME?
    Or, Employer could ask to work longer time a day?
    8 hours: from 8 to 5 (included 30 minuts lunch time – not paid; 30 minuts – 2 brakes not paid) Is it right?
    I am in CALIFORNIA

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Margarita! We have created a special forum to answer questions like yours. Please post it on our sister site at http://www.laborlawtalk.com. And thanks for reading! Caitlin

  3. tommy Says:

    Just wanted to say I enjoyed the post. You have really put a lot of time into your article and it is just great!

  4. Caitlin Says:

    Check back often, tommy! We post 5 days per week!~ Caitlin

  5. P C Says:

    If I have to work a 10 hour shift, is it legal to only allow 1-30minute lunch and 2 10 minute breaks?

  6. Caitlin Says:

    Hi PC! Unfortunately, yes, it is legal in Texas. In fact, because the state has no break laws, it would be legal for the employer to require that you work 10 hours without any meal or rest break. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  7. salim Says:

    if any employee working 5 to 6 hrs shift do employer required to give them 15 mintues break in texas thank you

  8. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Salim! Unfortunately, no, there is no Texas law that requires an employer to give breaks to employees at all. An employee can be required to work 6 hours or even 16 hours without a meal or rest break. Nor is the employer required to give workers any breaks to smoke, in Texas. The employer must allow workers to use the toilet “when nature calls” but this does not include other activities like making cell phone calls or smoking. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  9. jon Says:

    Im curious if its legal for my employer to make me work through company allowed 15 minute breaks (2) while everyone else takes theirs.

  10. Caitlin Says:

    Hi jon! No, if everyone else receives a 15-minute break and you do not, that may very well be illegal discrimination.
    If you are in a different job than everyone else, and are the only person who can perform that job, there may be a legitimate business reason for you to skip breaks. However, if other people in the same job are permitted to take breaks, and you are not, that is probably illegal. If all the female workers take breaks, and you are male this is discrimination based on sex. If all the Hispanic workers take breaks, and you are not Hispanic, this is illegal discrimination based on race, color or national origin, etc.
    If this is the case, you should respectfully approach HR or upper management with this problem. If they do not resolve it, you should file a complaint with the EEOC at http://www.eeoc.gov. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

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