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Not able to take paid breaks

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  • Not able to take paid breaks

    I work in Massachusetts for a major cable company as a cable technician/installer. The company policy allows us two 15 min. paid breaks and a 30 min. unpaid meal break. All of our work is appointment based, are all house calls and issued in two hour time frames, there are four time frames and we typically get from two to three jobs per time frame. The company will consistantly either issue us more work than we have time to complete in an 8 hour day at the beginning of our shift or issues us additional work throughout the day. This work burden forces us to skip our meal and paid break periods in order meet appointments, perform the work and complete the jobs. We are late for some jobs almost everyday. We also get demerits for missed or late appointments which are detrimental to our performance review. It's a catch 22. More often than not we must also work overtime past our shift in order to complete the work for the day. Office policy is no one goes home until thier work is done. What I have been doing lately when i must work straight through the day with out a lunch or a break is claiming an extra hour of work on my time card. This seems logical and ethical to me because if i did actually take the combined breaks allowed, they would essentially cause me to work one our later on any given day. Now I have recently been questioned by my boss about why my time card shows 10 hours of work but my work orders show only 9 hours of work. I explained my logic to him, but now I have a meeting with him and my human resources manager on Tuesday before my shift. I am afraid that I may be fired. Am I wrong in this matter? Can I fight this?
    Last edited by quadz; 02-26-2006, 05:53 PM. Reason: to be more specific

  • #2
    Massachusetts law does not require that you receive two fifteen minute breaks a day - in fact, no state does. If company policy offers them that's fine but no law is being violated if you do not receive them. The company can, however, order you to take them. (Under Federal law, breaks of under 20 minutes must be paid breaks so they have to pay you for the time whether you take the breaks or not but they do have the option of making the breaks mandatory.)

    MA law DOES require that you receive a 30 minute unpaid meal break if you work six hours or more. By failing to take this break you are not only causing the company to be out of compliance with the law, but you are also potentially putting yourself in an overtime situation which the company has the right of controling. While you have to be paid for the time if you work it, you can be disciplined (up to and including termination) if you fail to take the break as required or if you work unauthorized overtime.

    I'm not unsympathetic to your situation but nonetheless that's the way things stand.
    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.

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    • #3
      One more thing

      Understood,

      How about this. I am an at will employee with this company, however since it is written in company policy that we get 2 paid 15 min breaks, can this section of the policy be considered an implied contract. I am splitting hairs here but I am just trying to have an argument worth presenting. And on that note company policy also states that employees are expected to report to work 15 min. prior the start of there shift, which I do. Should I be paid for that time also?
      Thanks

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      • #4
        Since I have not seen the exact wording of your handbook (and I would need to see the entire thing, not just the section on breaks) or whether or not it states anywhere in it that it is NOT a contract (as many handbooks do) I can't answer that.

        All I can tell you is that you have a better chance of making that argument fly in MA than you would in many states, but there is NO guarantee either way.
        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.

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        • #5
          I agree with cbg. There is no law requiring the additional break, but your handbook could certainly create a contract to provide one. There is recent case law in MA which partly backs up this type of contract claim with handbooks. But you have to be very careful with the wording in the handbook, because the handbook could make those breaks contingent upon the workload.

          As for the unpaid meal break, if they are requiring you to perform work during that time, then they must pay you for that time. Same goes for the "show-up early" policy.
          This post is by Philip Gordon, a Massachusetts employment attorney (www.gordonllp.com).

          This post is NOT legal advice. It is for general/educational information purposes only. You should not rely on this post if you are making decisions, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. This post may be considered "advertising" under the MA professional rules for attorneys.

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