Give me a Break: Are Texans entitled to Lunch breaks?

Employment Lawyer Rasha Zeyadeh

Dallas Employment Lawyer Rasha Zeyadeh

Aside from New York’s magnificent architectural treasures and California’s amazing weather and beautiful beaches, what sets these two states apart from Texas? New York and California have strict requirements for employers to provide meal and rest breaks to employees, while Texas does not.

Under Texas law, there is no requirement for employers to provide meal breaks to employees. Similarly, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA), does not mandate meal breaks. Thus, Texas employees are not entitled a meal break.

However, the FLSA requires employers to provide nursing mothers reasonable break times, usually about 30-minutes, to express breast milk, or if children are allowed in the office, to nurse their infants, during the first year after the baby’s birth. This requirement only applies to non-exempt employees (i.e., those who are entitled to overtime pay for overtime work), and it exempts employers with less than 50 employees if it causes an undue hardship for the employer to provide such breaks.

Despite the absence of a legal requirement to offer breaks to employees, many employers voluntarily offer such breaks for the sake of the health and productivity of its workforce. However, if an employer chooses to offer breaks, it must adhere to federal regulations.

For example, federal law requires that employees be paid for hours worked. If the employer offers a meal break of at least 30-minutes during which the employees does not perform any job-related tasks, then the employer does not have to compensate the employee for the lunch break. However, if the employee is required to work during the break, then the employer must pay the employee for the lunch break. Additionally, if an employer provides a rest break that is 20 minutes or less in duration, it must pay the employee for that break, since such breaks are regarded as promoting productivity and efficiency on the part of the employees and thus benefit the employer.

If an employer chooses to provide meals break, the breaks must not be provided in a discriminatory manner. In other words, an employer cannot deny a meal break to a specific employee based on sex, race, disability, national origin, age, or religion. If an employer engages in such discriminatory practices, the employee may file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions and/or the Texas Workforce Commission.

Moreover, if an employer provides a rest break (20 minutes or less) or requires that work be performed during a designated meal break, then the employer must pay the employee for that break as if it were part of the workday. If the employer fails to pay the employee, the employee may file a wage and hour violation complaint to seek compensation for denied wages.

If your employer offers meal breaks and has denied you a meal break based on your race, age, national origin, religion, or disability, schedule a consultation with me to discuss your rights and actions you may pursue against your employer. Similarly, if your employer offers rest breaks (20-minutes or less) and/or requires you to work during your designated meal break but does not pay you for the rest break or meal break, you should also schedule a consultation with me to discuss your rights and actions you may pursue against your employer.  If you are a nursing mother who requires a break to express milk or nurse, but your employer refuses to allow you to take any such break, schedule a consultation with me to discuss your rights and actions you may pursue against your employer.

New York may have cool infrastructure and California may have awesome weather, but you never mess with a Texan. If you do, there’s always another Texan ready for the fight. Give me call and let me fight for your rights!

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