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Should employees be paid during lunch and break periods

Employees are entitled to compensation for all of the time that they are allowed to work, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act. New York workers should be familiar with what the Department of Labor's regulations states regarding compensation for employees for the times that they are not working, such as breaks and meals, if their work activities are limited during those periods.

The regulation states that employers are required to compensate their employees during their break and meal times unless the employees have been relieved of duty. However, there is a question whether the employees can be paid if they are supposed to remain in uniform and close to the work area or equipment, can leave their employer's premises without repercussions, are unable to go to sleep or on personal errands, or have to remain on call and be ready to go to work when they are notified.

Most of the federal appellate courts have not applied a literal understanding of the regulations. Instead, the overall factors surrounding each case are examined to determine who can benefit the most from the break or meal period. Some of the factors that are examined include what type of activity restrictions are placed on the employees who are required to stay on the premises, how many times employees are interrupted during the meal or break period and for how long and whether collective bargaining agreement terms should be considered.

An employee who believes his or her employee rights are being violated by an employer, should consider consulting with an attorney who practices employment law. The lawyer may work to obtain financial compensation for unfair pay practices, denied breaks or overtime, overtime disputes, minimum wage violations and more.

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