The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Oregon Revised Statute 653.261 both regulate minimum employment conditions for workplaces within the state. Such minimum conditions include minimum hourly wages, required overtime payments, and required rest and meal periods. These conditions do not apply to all employees, however, as many employees are classified as “exempt” from these regulations. Oregon Revised Statute 653.020 outlines which employees may be considered exempt, including certain salaried executives, professionals, and administrative employees, domestic employees who work in the home on a casual basis (i.e. babysitters), certain agricultural workers, taxi drivers, and more. However, employers must follow the minimum guidelines for most employees who are paid on an hourly basis.
Meal Break Requirements
Generally speaking, the law requires employers to provide at least a 30-minute meal break for all employees who work shifts of six hours or more. Once an employee works at least a fourteen-hour shift, meal breaks increase. During meal breaks, an employee must be released from all work-related duties. Under very certain circumstances, an employee may be permitted to work during a meal break. However, in that case, the employer must pay the employee for that time and it will not count as a meal break.
Often, employees will request to skip meal breaks in order to shorten their workday or otherwise allow for more flexible shift scheduling. While employers may believe they are being nice when they allow employees to do this, they should likely think twice. These meal break requirements set out by the law are quite strict and employers should avoid bending the rules to accommodate employees.
According to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), in order to be in compliance with the law, employers must require employees to take required meal breaks during work hours and may not use the time to shorten a work day. Furthermore, employees should not be allowed to skip rest breaks in order to make their meal break longer, since the law requires all breaks to be taken at separate times. Finally, an employer cannot ignore the situation if there is an employee who refuses to take a meal break. Even if it solely the employee’s fault that he misses meal breaks, an employer may still be found in violation of the law. In order to be in compliance, employers must remind workers to take their scheduled meal breaks. If employees continue to skip breaks, BOLI states the employee may even have to be disciplined to get him to comply with the law.
As you can see, BOLI takes minimum meal break requirement statutes very seriously and expects all employers and employees to comply. If you believe you have been denied proper meal breaks or have any other questions regarding employment laws, contact HKM today.