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Medical Center’s Automatic Lunch Break Deductions Violated FLSA and Reminds Employers to Properly Account for All Hours Worked

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting  

· 5 minute read

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting  

· 5 minute read

An investigation that determined an employer’s automatic 30-minute meal deductions violated federal overtime and recordkeeping law is a reminder to employers about the importance of accounting for all hours worked.

Federal minimum wage and overtime requirements.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that employees must receive at least the minimum wage and may not be employed for more than 40 hours in a week without receiving at least one and one-half times their regular rates of pay for the overtime hours (Fact Sheet #22: Hours Worked Under the Fair Labor Standards Act). See Payroll Guide ¶18,350 for more on FLSA overtime requirements.

Hours worked and work time.

The amount employees should receive cannot be determined without knowing the number of hours worked. Work not requested but suffered or permitted to be performed is work time that must be paid for by the employer. See Payroll Guide ¶18,280et seq. for more information on hours worked and working time.

Rest periods.

Rest periods of short duration, usually 20 minutes or less, are customarily paid for as working time. These short periods must be counted as hours worked. See Payroll Guide ¶18,290 for more information on meal and rest periods.

Unpaid breaks if completely relieved from duty.

However, bona fide meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more) generally need not be compensated as work time. The employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating regular meals. The employee is not considered to be relieved if the individual is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating.


Employers subject to the FLSA must make, keep, and preserve records for each domestic service worker who is entitled to minimum wage and/or overtime pay. The law requires no particular form of records, but does require that the records include certain information about the employee and data about the hours worked and wages earned (Fact Sheet #79C: Recordkeeping Requirements for Individuals, Families, or Households Who Employ Domestic Service Workers Under the Fair Labor Standards Act). See Payroll Guide ¶18,500et seq. for more information on FLSA recordkeeping.

Make sure employees are free of work-related tasks.

On February 28, 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) announced that its Wage and Hour Division (WHD) determined that the North Sunflower Medical Center automatically deducted 30-minute lunch breaks from some employees’ hours without making sure they were free of work-related tasks and able to take the breaks.

Overtime violations.

According to the WHD, several times a week, some of the facility’s nurses need to work through lunch breaks to update patient records. By automatically deducting 30-minute lunch breaks, the employer failed to account for all the hours that the nurses worked, which resulted in FLSA violations of its overtime provisions.

Recordkeeping and other violations.

The WHD also determined that North Sunflower Medical Center did not combine employees’ hours when they worked in different departments at the facility and failed to use the total number of hours worked when calculating additional half-time rates owed to these employees. In addition, investigators found the employer failed to maintain an accurate record of hours worked for employees.

What the WHD said.

“Employers must combine all hours employees work at separate locations and pay overtime on the total number of hours worked,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Audrey Hall. She added that such costly errors can be avoided with help from the WHD.

Further reading: Payroll Guide ¶18,560 (Remedies for FLSA Violations).


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