Back to back breaks legal?

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Back to back breaks legal?

At a retail establishment, sometimes business dies in the afternoon, sometimes it’s busy. Our Bboss will send us on a 30 minute unpaid lunch when it gets slow around noon. Then after 30 minutes just before we clock in, he tells us to take another 30 minute lunch. Then thirty minutes later, just as we are clocking back in he’ll say it a third time because we are still slow. Next thing you know it’s 2:30 and we’ve just been sitting around in the back unpaid for 2 1/2 hours because it might get busy and in that case, we need to be there to clock in real quick. The situation is similar to a split shift except that we can be called upon at any moment to clock back in or sent home after 3 pm. However, if we aren’t there to clock back in, we are written up as if we didn’t come back from a regular lunch.

Asked on December 27, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Texas

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Any time that you are on the work premises and ready and willing to work, an employer can simply not choose to pay you because it is their "slow time". So long as you are available to work then, assuming that you are paid hourly, any such time is compensable (i.e. you need to be paid for it). That having been said, absent an employment contract or union agreement to the contrary, you can be sent home if not needed at your workplace (but as stated - you cannot be made to wait around at your workplace unpaid). At this point, you can file a wage claim wth your state's department of labor and/or take your employer to small claoms court regrding all monies that you can prove are owed to you. Since this is happening to other employees as well, you can possibly chip and to pay cover the cost odf a consultation cwith an employment law attorney who can advise you all further.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

No, he can't keep you available but not working or off the clock. If it's sufficiently slow, he can send you home entirely and take you off the clock--no law guarantees you your entire shift, and your employer can send employees home early. But if he keeps you around or available, then you are "working" and must be paid for your time (if you are hourly), even if not actually doing work at the time. If the employer makes you stay at or near the workplace without paying you, he is violating the labor laws and you could contact the state or federal department of labor to file a complaint.


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