Q: My employer does not enforce 5th hour meal break penalty. Is this grounds for a lawsuit?
I typically work 8 hour shifts throughout the year except for the last quarter; I begin working 10 - 12 hour shifts 5 days per week. Often times I am unable to take a meal break until well after my 5th hour. On the days when I work the 10-12 hour shifts, I'm given 1 meal break. This is the same circumstance of 100's of other employees in the company. I worked for another company in the past that paid employees an extra hour of pay if the 5th hour was passed without a taken meal break; which caused me to believe this was the standard.
A: You are correct that the "premium pay" of 1 hour pay is to be paid by law when the meal period occurs outside the required time after you begin work. In addition, there are penalties that may be available for incorrect statements of earnings, but right now this is a little uncertain. My guess is that if they are not allowing a proper meal break, they also deny you the "on the clock" rest breaks every 3 hours. This incurs an additional hour of premium pay, that makes 2 per day. Another problem is that they may be improperly rounding you time or making you work off the clock. It that occurs, then you really have a case because attorney's fees also apply.
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