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Meal and Rest Breaks Under Texas Law

Many businesses compensate employees for they time when they are eating lunch or taking an allowed break. While employers might consider this a good way to keep workers happy and productive, Texas law does not require any payment for times that employees are not actually on the job. This differs from some other states where paid breaks are written into the law and sometimes creates confusion when a worker switches jobs.

Without specific rules of its own, Texas adheres to the federal law governing meal and rest breaks. If you are an employer or employee in a workplace environment where wages are paid on an hourly basis, you should understand the rules addressing:

  • Meal breaks — A traditional meal break exists when someone is eating and not performing any of their job tasks. Someone who eats at their desk or another type of work station should still be paid if they remain on the job while having their meal. Usually, a set unpaid lunch period would last for at least 30 minutes. Whether this time is taken in a lunchroom, offsite or at your work station, a boss should not request that the employee do anything work-related during that time.
  • Rest breaks Under federal law, short, permitted breaks that an employee takes during the day typically must be compensated. For example, someone who requires a few minutes to go to to the restroom does not lose pay for that timeframe. It is important to remember that employers are not required to grant these breaks. However, many employers understand that productivity suffers when workers are frustrated or distracted, so they will allow brief periods for relaxation.
  • Disability accommodations — Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are still capable of completing their work. This could take the form of a revised break schedule in order for someone to take medication or relieve symptoms associated with their medical condition. Businesses are not under any obligation to provide compensation for time while the employee is not working, however.

Conflicts over breaks, overtime pay and other wage claims can be complex and expensive. Before you decide take action, it is wise to discuss the applicable law with a knowledgeable Texas employment attorney.

The Law Offices of David C. Holmes in Houston assists workers and employers with a wide range of wage and hour issues, as well as other workplace legal matters. To set up a free initial consultation, please call 713-586-8862 or contact us online.