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Federal Law for mandatory lunch breaks for exempt employees?

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  • Federal Law for mandatory lunch breaks for exempt employees?

    I worked out an agreement with my manager (and my manager's manager) about my work hours. We agreed to a 7am to 3pm work day, Monday through Friday. I am an exempt employee in the state of Texas.

    Recently, my manager was approached by our HR department that I *HAD* to take a 30 minute lunch break.

    I was under the impression that Texas does not have any state laws requiring mandatory lunch breaks. As well, I did go over our company policy - we do not have any company policy that states any mandatory lunch break (for exempt or non-exempt).

    My manager and her manager replied back to the HR group that my hours would be 7am to 3:30pm, and they told me privately, that I could take my lunch at 3pm.

    The HR group found this out and are now saying that I cannot take a lunch at 3:00pm.

    To note - there are others in my organization that work flexible hours - monday through friday 9 to 5pm, a few others working monday through friday 7 to 3pm, as well as those working monday through thursday 9 to 5 with no work day on friday (their total hours are 32).

    We are in a small company - about 75 people in the organization.

    Is there any state or federal law that mandates a 30 minute lunch break for exempt employees? If the company does not have a stated policy on it, what is the HR department's ground for forcing this rule on me?

    Thank you in advance.


  • #2
    No, there is no Federal or state law requiring an 30 minute lunch break for either exempt or non-exempt employees.

    HR's grounds for forcing this is simple: the employer, not the employee, sets the rules, including the hours of work. Contrary to what a frightening number of people believe, an exempt employee does not get to come and go as they please. It is entirely legal for an employer to require an exempt employee to work certain hours, or to take a lunch break.

    Bottom line; the employer cannot require that you take fewer breaks than the law requires, but they can require you to take more. If your employer says you take a lunch break, you take a lunch break. Period.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


    • #3
      Contrary to what you might believe: Federal Law does NOT require lunch or coffee breaks.

      However, when employer's do offer short breaks(usually lasting 5 to 20 mintutes) federal law consider's the breaks work-time that must be paid.
      Unauthorized extentions of authorized work breaks, however, need not be counted as hours worked when the employer has expressly told the employee that the authorized break may only last for a specific length of time, that any extension of the break is contrary to the employer's rules, and any extension of the break will be punished.

      Meal periods (typically lasting at least 30 minutes) serve a different purpose than coffee or snack breaks and, thus, are not work time and are not compensable; i.e (you don't have to be paid for them.)
      Don't Worry Be Happy!


      • #4
        Whether a break is authorized or unauthorized has nothing to do with the poster's question. Further, as an exempt employee, the OP must be paid his/her full wages for any day in which they perform any work, regardless of breaks, meals or other interuptions. The employer is always free to set the hours they expect the employee to be there and if they expect the employee to be there for a total of 8.5 hours, they may require that regardless of whether the employee took their lunch break or not.
        I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.


        • #5
          Thank you for all of the replies. My concern is mostly that my manager and her manager are authorizing the 8 hr work day from 7am to 3pm. The only person that has a dissenting opinion is the HR Manager.

          From the first poster (after my message), it sounds like the "employer" is always right. In this case, who is right? The HR Manager? My boss? My boss' boss? As of right now, the CEO has always made it clear that work hours are to the manager's discretion. However, the HR Manager is bullying her way into the situation by stipulating a "mandatory" 30 minute lunch break. If my manager and my manager's manager approved the 8 hour work day without the break, why would the HR Manager trump their decision?

          Thanks again.


          • #6
            We would have no idea. But, generally speaking, HR is the purveyor of policies and procedures.
            I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.


            • #7
              WHOA! Nellie --or Patty

              Originally posted by Pattymd
              ... generally speaking, HR is the purveyor of policies and procedures.

              Human Relations and the use of human resources is a function of management. The HR department, while they may provide management advisory service, and guidance, carries out policy. They do not set policy. It's a poorly run company when the HR department dictates to all levels of management. I've been a manager at all levels, and a manager in HR. If I ever, as HR manager, tried to tell management how to run their operation, I would (and should) get yanked up by the [nape of the neck], and redirected. As an Operations Manager, I often relied on my HR department for interpretation, guidance, and legal research, but they never set policy for me.

              I think our OP here needs to let his management resolve the issue of who establishes shifts, and then abide by the decision of the employer. The employer being the entity who runs the establishment.
              Last edited by Texas709; 04-28-2006, 08:06 AM.


              • #8
                I have to agree with Texas709, especially where there are at least two known facts per the OP:

                1. No employer policy mandating a lunch break
                2. " ... the CEO has always made it clear that work hours are to the manager's discretion ... "

                Moreover, no one has referenced a Texas statute mandating a lunchbreak.

                I would surmise that the HR Manager reports to the CEO or does so through the corporate heirarchy, therefore his/her directive should be preempted by the CEO's.

                I would suggest the OP press his management team to go to the CEO of this small company and request their desires as to how to manage its staff be pewrmitted as opposed to those of the HR manager.


                • #9
                  OK, bad term. Listen to Texas709.

                  purveyor: one who supplies (as provisions) usually as a matter of business
                  I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.


                  • #10
                    Oh! That Purveyor

                    Patty, I shouldn't jump that quickly--HR roles are a button for me. You're right, in that HR does disseminate policy, and generally provides policy to employees.

                    My feeling is that here, there is a disconnect between the tail (HR) and the dog (Company management), and the OP does not want to get caught in the whiplash of the wag. [How's that for stretching a metaphor?]

                    God, I love semantics!!


                    • #11
                      Pretty soon, Texas709, that metaphor is gonna snap!
                      I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.


                      • #12
                        Thank you all again for your comments & experiences...

                        I think what it will boil down to - is how much my manager and her manager are willing to go to bat for me. They are both fine with the arrangement (as I mentioned previously, they came up with the arrangement).

                        To make matters clear - if my manager and her manager do come back and state they are agreeing with the HR Manager (for sake of peace in the company), then I will abide by the rules.

                        Thanks again.