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Can Auto-Deducting Meals Create an FLSA Wage and Hour Violation?

by Whitfield Bryson | Wage & Hour | Share

Technology and automation can be lifesavers as far as increasing a business’s efficiency; however, sometimes doing things automatically can have dire consequences. One such practice is the auto-deducting of employees’ unpaid meal breaks from their pay. Many companies set up this auto-deduction for administrative ease and to avoid the necessity of tracking employees clocking in and out for lunch.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), all employees must be paid overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek, and employers are required to keep accurate records of all time worked. Many employers automatically deduct 30 minutes from their employees’ 8.5 hour workdays assuming all employees take their regular 30 minute meal breaks. Employers who violate FLSA terms are financially liable for doing so, and multiple employees are often affected.

In addition to the FLSA, North Carolina has state wage laws holding employers to similar standards. North Carolina state law also requires workers to be correctly classified and paid for every hour worked.

While auto-deducting policies are not illegal under the FLSA, they can cause complications for employers. If employees are actually working during their predetermined unpaid meal breaks, they may be able to sue their employer in a wage and hour lawsuit. Working during one’s break often happens in industries like construction where meal breaks get interrupted by an acute need to work immediately. In cases like these, the meal break transitions from being for the benefit of the employee to being for the benefit of the employer, necessitating the employee be paid for that time.

North Carolina Wage and Hour Lawyers

We work closely with employees, employers, and the Department of Labor to resolve wage and hour disputes efficiently and effectively. You can trust us to find solutions that meet your individual needs. If you have questions regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act or North Carolina’s Wage and Hour Act, contact the employment law attorneys at Whitfield Bryson LLP today. We can evaluate your case, discuss the options available to you, and protect your rights under the law.


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