Can I sue my employer for not giving me a break during a 4 hours or more shift?

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Can I sue my employer for not giving me a break during a 4 hours or more shift?

I work as a server in a country club. My employer does not give me a break during a 4 hours or more shift. More than that my employer deducts $2 for a meal and ask me to clock out to eat that meal. However I usually eat after I finish my shift, otherwise if I’m hungry I clock out and go eat. Some other co-workers are not clocking out. They are going to smoke without clocking out. I feel there is a lot of discrimination.

Asked on May 6, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Alabama

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Here is the issue for you. Every state is different in terms of what it considers an employee covered under regular labor laws and those that have exceptions for servers. Every state is different in what they consider a minimum numbers of hours worked that requires a break.  This is the first issue. As to the state of Alabama, there are no specific laws regarding meal or break periods but the Fair Labor Standards Act (under federal law) would require that employers pay employees for any breaks taken that are less than 20 minutes. So smoking breaks while they may seem unfair are compensable time and meal periods are not compensable time. So co-workers who don't clock out for smoke breaks don't have to clock out but for meals, they must.


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