The law is clear: Employers must pay their employees for the short breaks they take during the workday. There are limits and, as with all laws, there are loopholes. But by and large, workers should be compensated for breaks lasting 20 minutes or less.
Unfortunately, employers flout this law routinely. They argue that they shouldn’t have to pay their workers for not working. And the consequences are far-reaching. When break periods go unpaid, it can mean that some workers earn less than the minimum wage. Likewise, it can lead to issues concerning overtime pay. Such scenarios violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and may lead to messy legal disputes.
Why should workers receive pay for taking breaks?
In recent years, there have been a number of studies (and internet “think pieces“) that demonstrate breaks are conducive to productivity. That is, when workers are able to step away from their work now and again, they’ll end up doing more of it. Even the federal government recognizes that breaks “promote the efficiency of the employee.” Simply put, employers should want their workers to take breaks from time to time.
Still, restrictions apply. For the most part, the restrictions are guided by common sense. Workers shouldn’t take excessively long breaks – indeed, the law does not require employers to pay workers for breaks over 30 minutes. And employers should be careful about taking too many breathers during a single day or week.
How Does This Affect Nursing Mothers?
Additional protections are in place for nursing mothers. Namely, since 2010, federal law has compelled employers “to provide reasonable break time for [nursing mothers] to express breast milk…for up to one year after the child’s birth each time [she] has need to express the milk.”
This has proved to be an especially important provision, ensuring that nursing women are granted a safe and supportive working environment.
The Laws Are Evolving
There is a kind of catch-22 at play in Georgia’s laws governing break periods. Namely, employers are not specifically required to allow their employees to take breaks; however, if short breaks are permitted – as, in most cases, they are – then the workers must be compensated for them.
To learn more, or if you believe your rights under this law have been violated, it is advisable to consult with an attorney who can help to assess your situation and, when necessary, assert your interests in court.