Employment Law

Personal Injury

What about coffee breaks?

by | May 15, 2018 | Wage And Hour |

No matter what sort of job you perform in Kansas City, it is difficult for anyone to do the same thing for eight hours straight while maintaining task-centered focus throughout. Even if your work shift is broken up by a lunch break, you still might find it hard to remain fully engaged the entire time. Plus, recent years have seen companies emphasize corporate wellness initiatives that encourage employees to live healthier lives (so in turn, they miss less work due to illness or injury). Part of these programs is often encouraging short breaks throughout the day to take a quick walk or to grab a drink or a snack. 

Popularly known as “coffee breaks” (even by those who may not drink coffee), these short undocumented breaks are a common element of office culture. The question is whether your employer has the right to insist that such breaks occur “off the clock.” Per the U.S. Department of Labor, your employer is not required to give you any such breaks during a shift. However, if it does allow them (or as was mentioned earlier, even encourages them), then it also must recognize that time is compensable. 

What does this mean? If your employer allows you to take a 5-20 break during your shift, it cannot insist that you clock out to do so. You are still entitled to be paid during that time. That does not mean, however, that you are entitled to such an undocumented break. Say, for example, that your employer allows a 30-minute lunch break (during which time it can require you to clock out). You cannot then simply extend your lunch break for an additional 5-20 minutes and expect to be paid for that time.