Am I required to give my employees breaks in Texas?

On Behalf of | Oct 4, 2022 | Employment Law, Employment Law for Employers

Employee rights have been a prominent topic of interest in Texas and throughout the United States in the past several years. This is due to allegations of mistreatment, harassment, discrimination, abuse and wrongful termination. Workers are being given greater leeway, more outlets to complain and achieved positive outcomes by complaining.

However, even the most basic aspects of employment can lead to employees alleging they have been subjected to legal violations. Employers are frequently cast as being in the wrong. When looking at the Fair Labor Standards Act and the laws in the Lone Star State, they may not be. When employers are being accused of wrongdoing or are confronted with the threat of litigation, it is important to have experienced assistance to ensure they are protected.

Employers are generally not required to give employees breaks

When people get any kind of job, they are often under the mistaken impression that they are automatically entitled to breaks. In some states, that is true under FLSA and state laws. Texas is not one of them. Even if there are breaks as part of the workday, the employer can place their own limits on them.

Workers who get a meal break are unpaid if they are a minimum of a half-hour long and the employee is not expected to do any work during that time. In some situations, a shorter break could be based on the company and its policies. This is optional and the employer can decide not to give a meal break. Regarding the length of time for the meal break, where the employee can go during the break and if they can consume certain items like alcohol is up to the company.

Some employees might take their meal break and work at their desk or station. If they work during the break, then they can be paid for it. Employers obviously cannot order employees to eat or drink while they are on break, but they can tell them not to do any work. They could even tell them they cannot be at their workstation while on the technical meal break. Employees could even face discipline for violating this workplace rule.

The circumstances will dictate what employers can and cannot do, but employees who think they can file a claim because of violations related to a meal break and how they spend it are often mistaken. Employers are advised to have a clearly defined policy. Even if they do not, the law protects them against claims of illegality if none have occurred.

Rest or coffee breaks are another matter. These last for a maximum of 20 minutes. Although smoking has tamped down significantly in recent years, employers do have the option of giving a smoking break even though it is not required by law. This will be categorized as a rest break. Employees will not be paid while on a rest break for coffee, smoking or to simply rest.

Employers should protect themselves against employment law violations

Even if the employer is acting well within their rights, the mere accusation of employment law violations can place any business in a negative light. People who are considering purchasing goods and services from a business that has been the subject of claims that they are not giving adequate breaks to employees under the law might not do so.

In these cases, employers must be completely aware of the FLSA rules, Texas law and how they can shield themselves from the damaging impact of workplace violations. Some cases can be handled out of court. Others need to go to court. From the beginning, it is imperative to have legal help to fight employment claims. This can be beneficial in assessing the case, looking at the allegations, considering the law and moving forward.