Florida Labor Laws on Breaks

Florida Labor Laws on Breaks

Florida rest breaks for employees are not mandated by state law, although there are some protections for employees under federal labor laws. Florida employers recognize the importance of providing rest and meal breaks to their employees, but it’s up to each employer to create their own employment policy for breaks.

These policies must comply with federal laws, though, and once the employer includes its meal and rest breaks into its employee handbook, it must adhere to the stated policy for workers.

If your employer is not permitting you or your co-workers to take your breaks, or if you’re being asked to work off the clock through your break time, you may have grounds to file a complaint or take legal action. Talk to one of the employment attorneys at Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. today to learn more about your legal options.

Florida Labor Laws: Breaks for Employees

Minors under age 17 are given mandatory breaks in Florida, which means a 30-minute lunch off the clock after four hours of the beginning of their shift and two 15-minute rest breaks on the clock if the employee is working an 8-hour shift.

Under Florida labor laws, breaks for employees only apply to minors; no other Florida statutes require employers to provide meal or rest breaks for employees 18 years old and up.

Instead, Florida employers must follow the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regarding scheduling and lengths of shifts. However, the FLSA also doesn’t mandate rest or meal breaks, so technically, Florida employees are not legally entitled to a break at work.

In specific circumstances, an employee may be permitted more than the “rule of thumb” breaks of one 30-minute lunch and two 15-minute rest breaks. Nursing mothers (those who are breastfeeding infants up to one year old) are permitted time to express milk under provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which provides protections and accommodations for these women.

That being said, there are laws in the Sunshine State that do protect employees and their fair rest and meal breaks.

Lunch Break Laws in Florida

Florida break laws for employees must comply with federal guidelines regarding employees’ payment for hours worked. This means that if employers offer 30 or 60-minute unpaid lunch breaks, the employee cannot be required to work while on their break.

Federal laws require that employees be paid when they are working, so if the employer asks them to work through a scheduled lunch, leave late for lunch, or come back early from their break, then the employee must be paid.

florida labor laws breaks

For example, if an office has a receptionist on staff who must answer phones during office hours, then the receptionist must be paid if she is required to answer the phones during her meal break.

Employers may inadvertently run afoul of federal regulations if they permit some work to be performed while the employee is on break, such as in this example, or allow an employee to eat lunch at their desk while working on a project at the same time.

In these situations, the time is considered compensable, so employers must restrict all work during break times to remain compliant with federal statutes.

Furthermore, meal and rest breaks may not be provided or restricted in a discriminatory manner. That is, an employee may not withhold break times from members of one protected class while permitting other employees to take breaks or to take longer breaks.

Breaks for Minors in Florida

Florida defines a minor in the workforce as someone aged 17 or younger. Florida labor laws for minors prohibit minors from working more than four hours without an unpaid meal period break.

Furthermore, Florida lunch break laws stipulate that this break time for minors may be at least 30 consecutive minutes (off the clock), which means that the break cannot be divided into smaller periods and interrupted by work.

There are a couple of exceptions to minor protections under Florida labor laws. Breaks may not be mandatory if the employee:

  • Has a GED or graduated from high school
  • Has a Certificate of Exemption issued by the school district superintendent
  • Is in private domestic service, FL legislature page, or employed by their parents

In addition to the meal period permitted under Florida break time laws, minors are also entitled to one 10-minute break for every four hours worked.

Break Laws for Hourly Employees in Florida

Under Florida labor laws, breaks are not mandatory. However, if employers offer meal and rest breaks, they must comply with federal labor laws regarding when employees are paid and whether they are permitted to work during the break. Short breaks under 20 minutes are considered part of a regular workday and must be paid for by the employer.

Per federal labor laws, Florida breaks longer than 20 minutes are unpaid, and employees are not allowed or permitted to be asked to work during that time. As long as the employee is not doing any work for at least half an hour and the break is unpaid, then it’s considered to be a “bona fide” meal break per federal law.

The length and number of breaks employers provide throughout the day are at each one’s discretion. The only federal or state laws that govern break time in Florida pertain to whether the employee is paid during the break time and whether the employee may work while on break.

Break Laws for Salaried Employees in Florida

Are breaks mandatory in Florida for salaried workers? Employees paid a salary are also protected by the same federal laws that apply to hourly workers. Although the term “off the clock” is most commonly associated with hourly workers, salaried workers who are on a break may also be restricted by their employer from working while on break.

Salaried Employees in Florida

For example, if a salaried employee has a pay structure that allows for overtime in certain circumstances, then an employer may not allow them to work during breaks because that time may push the salaried employee into overtime.

Meal breaks for salaried employees are just as important as those for hourly workers, and salaried employees may be permitted lunch or rest breaks after working a certain number of hours each day.

Mandatory Breaks in Florida

Although rest and meal breaks are not mandatory in Florida, some breaks could be considered mandatory. The nursing mother example noted above is considered mandatory break time for the mother to express milk as needed. Employers are required under the ADA to make reasonable accommodations for nursing mothers.

Another instance where the ADA may influence required breaks in Florida is in cases where an employee requires reasonable accommodations for certain medical conditions.

For example, if someone has difficulty standing for long periods, they may be permitted short sitting rest breaks throughout the day. This is considered a modification of break time according to the FLSA; the worker may receive a five-minute break every hour instead of two to three 15-minute breaks every few hours.

A final instance where break times would be mandatory in Florida would be for minors. Every employee under 18 must take a 30-minute break after working four hours.

Penalties for Non-Compliance with Florida Break Laws

Both employees and employers may get into legal trouble for violating Florida break laws. Employers may be fined for requiring or permitting employees to work during a bona fide meal break, as the employer would violate the FLSA requirements to pay workers for all time worked.

Furthermore, employers who engage in this kind of labor law violation could expose themselves to a lawsuit filed by one or more employees. A recent suit against retail giant Walmart is one example of this type of suit.

Although not an employee benefit required explicitly by Florida labor laws, breaks are protected once the employer offers them. In these cases, if the employer violates the provided break time by requiring employees to continue working during breaks or denying employees the opportunity to take their breaks, then the employer may get into trouble with the Florida Department of Labor.

Employees have the right to file a complaint against their company with this Department, seeking redress of grievances that include compensation for lost break times, missed wages, and other compensation.

Once a complaint is filed, then the Florida Department of Labor has the authority to investigate it. This investigation can include auditing the employer’s time records and policies regarding breaks for employees.

An investigation by the Department of Labor can be costly and tedious for employers. It’s something that many wish to avoid, even if the investigation concludes that the employer was compliant with state and federal labor laws.

If you have been asked to work during provided break times or have not been permitted to take breaks that your employer offered, you may file a complaint with the Florida Department of Labor. The agency will investigate your concerns and determine whether you’ll receive compensation for your lost wages.

Filing the complaint can be tricky, and the labor board requires several supporting documents to evaluate valid complaints. An employment lawyer can help you prepare the complaint.

If the complaint is denied, your employment lawyer can also help you understand other legal options.

When to Consult with a Lawyer

If you wish to file a complaint with the Florida Department of Labor for break-time violations, you do not need a lawyer, although legal guidance can make the process smoother and faster. If your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal the claim; at this point, having a lawyer is even more useful.

Employment lawyers understand how to draft appeals properly and argue before the appeal panel. They can also subpoena your employer’s time-keeping records to support your claim.

If your appeal is unsuccessful, you may file a lawsuit to seek redress. Filing a complaint with the Department of Labor is required before a judge will allow you to sue. In some cases, the Appeals Board may also permit you to file a suit against your employer for unfair employment practices.

If you know or suspect your employer has a pattern of denying break times or not paying employees for time worked during a bona fide meal break, consider talking to a lawyer about filing a mass tort or class action lawsuit. This would represent every employee affected by the employer’s violation of fair wage laws.

If there is any question about whether your employer violated Florida break laws, it’s important to seek legal advice. A Florida employment lawyer, like those at Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., can explain which laws your employer violated and your legal recourse.

You may be entitled to compensation for time missed and unpaid wages. Often, a lawsuit is the best legal vehicle to achieve this. Contact us today for a free consultation with one of our employment attorneys.



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