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Oct08

Oklahoma Lunch Break and Rest Break

Does Oklahoma have any laws around give 15 min rest breaks for 8+ hours worked? If so, are those breaks required to be paid? Currently I am deducting 30mins for lunch (employees are aware) and they have no set breaks. Is this a good practice?

No, this is not a good practice — for you, or for the employees. In fact, it may be illegal.

There is no federal or Oklahoma law that requires employers to give meal or rest breaks to workers in most industries, so you are in the clear there.

However, the federal FLSA or Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay workers for any breaks of less than 20 minutes. And, it requires employers to pay workers for all time worked. Simply telling your employees that you are deducting 30 minutes per day from their paychecks does not make it legal.

It sounds as if you have an informal office environment where employees set their own meal and break schedules. That is acceptable, but you still need to track their breaks, to keep accurate payroll records and make sure they are paid appropriately. One way to do that is to use a time clock, and have employees clock out for rest and meal breaks.

Suppose Joy is busy on Tuesday and does not have a chance to take a lunch break. Or, she simply forgets. Even though you told her you would deduct a 30 minute meal break each day, it is still illegal. She worked the full 8 hours, and must be paid for the full 8 hours. Now suppose on Wednesday, Joy takes six 10-minute breaks instead of one 30-minute meal break. Again, under federal law, she must be paid for all of those breaks, because each was less than 20 minutes. You may argue that on other days Joy takes more than her 30 minute lunch break, but legally, that does not matter.

The other problem with not having regular breaks is that it interferes with employee productivity. A number of studies have shown that an employee with a 30 to 60 minute meal break mid-shift, plus two 10 to 15 minute breaks, is more productive. Taking more breaks — or fewer breaks — usually results in less actual work being done.

It sounds like you run a very informal office. If that athmosphere works, you can certainly continue to allow employees to take their breaks whenever they like. But at a minimum, have them clock out for their 30 minute meal period daily — and pay them if they do not.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 8th, 2008 at 1:54 pm and is filed under
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4 Responses to “Oklahoma Lunch Break and Rest Break”

  1. Tony Rivera Says:

    Our employees that work 8 hour shifts get (2) 15 minute paid breaks and an (1)unpaid 30 minute break.
    If an employee, by their own choosing, continually take less than 30 minute meal breaks, say 25 minutes, can we get in trouble with the DOL?

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Tony! No. There is no Oklahoma law that employees must take meal breaks, so you are not in violation. And, under the federal FLSA, a meal break longer than 20 minutes may be unpaid. (If the meal break was less than 20 minutes, you would have to pay the employee for it.) So you are not in violation of any law when the employee takes a 25-minute meal break.
    However, you also don’t have to tolerate this violation of company policy, if it is a problem for you. (For one thing, it results the employee being paid for about an extra half-hour per week, about 26 hours per year.) You certainly can write the employee up or terminate him/her for not following the company break policy. HTH, and thanks for reading the blog. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  3. Rita Says:

    I have a couple of questions can an employer require employees to clock out for every break taken as small as 2 min? Is it legal to require smokers to be clocked out for 10min when taking a smoke break?, I will add it is a small bulding you can walk right out the back door so it does not take 10min we stand at the computer and wait for 10min to pass. and lastly I quit the job I have not recived my last check yet I need to know if he can legally pay me less an hour than what he told me I was going to make? I did not fill out any paper work (w-4 or I-9) nor did I sign ANYTHING… Thats part of the reason I quit… I did not feel like he was running a good busniss. What should I do?

  4. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Rita,
    There are a number of issues here, obviously. If the business is covered by the federal minimum wage law, the FLSA, then employees must be paid for breaks that are shorter than 20 minutes. There is no federal or Oklahoma law that requires the employer to give smoke or rest breaks, but it the employer does give them, under federal law the employee must be paid for them. It would be legal to require employees to clock out (as a method of tracking breaks) only if the employees were paid for breaks.
    The federal FLSA applies to most businesses, because they have annual revenue over $500,000 or do business across state lines (including using the internet, email or credit cards.)However, the FLSA does not cover every business in the U.S. Smaller businesses are covered by the Oklahoma minimum wage law. That law does not allow an employer to pay workers less than the agreed-upon wage. The employer can reduce the wage paid to an employee, but the emplyee must be informed in advance, before work is performed.
    When an employee is terminated, he or she must be paid on the next regular payday, which must be within 14 days of the end of the payroll period. If it has been longer than that, file a wage claim with the OK Department of the Labor Commissioner at the link below. (Copy it into your browser if the link is not live.)
    We agree that it is very suspicious that the employer never asked you to complete a W-4 or I-9. It sounds like he is attempting to operate an illegal or unlicensed business. You can report him at the same link below. Depending upon the type of business, you may also be able to report him to a state licensing board. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

    Read more about this at: http://www.ok.gov/odol/Workforce_Protection/Wage_and_Hour_Services/index.html

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