New Yorkers are protected under state and federal laws while they are working. Among these laws is a provision that they must be paid for all breaks that last 20 minutes or less. In a recent case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, an employer was found to have violated the law by docking workers who took bathroom breaks lasting longer than 90 seconds.
The Fair Labor Standards Act provides that breaks lasting 20 minutes or less are compensable time. This means that employers must pay their workers for these short breaks. In the case, Progressive Business Systems only paid their sales representatives for the time that they were actually logged into their computers. If they were gone for longer than 90 seconds, their pay would be docked.
The workers sued, and the District Court granted the workers summary judgment. Progressive Business Systems appealed, arguing that it offered a flex-time arrangement under which workers could get up from their computers whenever they wanted instead of breaks. The court ruled against the company and ordered it to pay $1.75 million in back wages to the employees. It also found that the time spent on breaks was compensable and thus should be included in overtime calculations.
The wage and hour laws of the federal government and state of New York are meant to prevent worker exploitation. If workers believe that they have not received the fair compensation that they are owed from their employers, they may have the right to file lawsuits. Employment law attorneys may review the documents to determine whether or not the wage and hour laws have been violated.