Question on labor law and breaks

While Ohio does not require employers to provide breaks to adult employees, I have chosen to do so.

My policy is that you may take a 15 minute paid break, or a 30 minute unpaid break, which is in accordance with federal labor law.

My employees have been a bit abusive about the system, usually taking longer breaks, or not correctly recording their times in and out. I have addressed this with them, but it seems to continue to be a problem.

What it comes down to, is they would like to take longer than a 15 minute break, but don’t want to lose a 1/2 hour of pay. I can afford to pay them for 15 minutes of non-productive work, but I can’t afford to pay them for a 1/2 hour of non-productive work.

I would be willing to compromise with them, and pay them for the first 15 minutes of any break, but then unpaid after that, but I am not sure if that would be in compliance with labor law.

There are many rules as to what constitutes a break and what does not, but I have not seen anything about a “hybrid” break, which makes me think that it may not be allowed, but at the same time, I can think of no logical reason (though laws are not always logical) that I could not give them the time.

Just wondering if there is a clear cut answer on this, or if I should run it by my lawyer first.

I don’t understand. If someone is there for, say, 8 hours, how does it cost you more money if 30 minutes of those 8 hours they are on a break?

We have something like this at Da Jungle; after 3 hours we get a 15 minute break (2.5 minutes to walk out, 10 actual break, 2.5 to get back to our station) on the clock and after 6 hours we must clock out and take a 30 minute unpaid break. This is standard throughout the company nation-wide. Because of the tools we use (electronic) its easy to track when we are “off task” or not actually working – IE on a break. Go over 15 and you get a written warning; three written warnings in any 90 days period and you are fired. End of discussion. It is surprising how few people get to that third written warning over breaks. Would something like that work for you?

They have work to do. If they are working, they are making me money, and therefore, paying them doesn’t “cost” me anything. If they are not working, then paying them does cost me.

The reason I bring it up is specifically because I have an employee with 2 warnings over this in just the last month and don’t want to lose her, but also can’t let her just keep violating policy. Other employees have noticed and are upset about it, it’s not really fair to the employees that do follow the policy.

I see. So, if you had an employee working 8 hours with no breaks, your business income would be X. And then if you started letting the employee take 30 minutes of those 8 hours to go on break, your business income would be some value less than X?

I guess I’m really sheltered. I have never worked outside California, but I had no idea it wasn’t required everywhere for people to get some sort of break or meal period for a shift lasting longer than four hours.

Not exactly, as my business income is more or less set at the beginning of the morning with my scheduled clients. The schedule does change throughout the day as people cancel or no show, and others look to get in, but, every employee has more or less a certain amount of work that they are going to need to do throughout the day.

So, if an employee can do 8 dogs in 8 hours, then I get paid for 8 dogs, and pay them for 8 hours.

If they take a 30 minute unpaid break, then they still do 8 dogs in 8 hours, and I still pay them for 8 hours.

If they take a 15 minute paid break, they do 8 dogs in 8 hours, and I pay them for 8.25. I can (barely) afford to give that away.

If they take a 30 minute paid break, then they still do 8 dogs in 8 hours, but I’ve paid them for 8.5 hours. I can’t afford to give that away.

What I’d like to do is give them a 30 minute break, and pay them for 15 minutes of it. Then they do 8 dogs in 8 hours, and I pay them for 8.25, which I can afford to do. Unfortunately, it is not explicit in labor law that I can do that, so I am in a position to assume that there is a reason I cannot. Just looking to see if anyone here knows any better.

California’s got more worker protections than Ohio does, that’s true. Minors do have required breaks, but not so much for adults.

I personally don’t think that people are very good at working for 8 hours straight without a break, so for productivity reasons, if nothing else, it makes sense to offer a break. At the same time, when I was an employee, I resented the places that required you to take a 30 minute unpaid break, as that was time that I wasn’t getting paid, but wasn’t doing things that I wanted to be doing. Especially since the places that were the most adamant that you must take your break were the least respectful about actually allowing you to have it uninterrupted, as the law stipulates.

Some of our locations get into that situation from time to time or even worse; someone who feels entitled to ignore barriers others obey because they are “liked”. I’m not saying its easy or something you want to do but it may be time to come down hard on the offender. Short of fire her maybe 30 days off without pay or something? If a situation like this is effecting others its gone toxic and IMHO its best to do something before it poisons the whole place.

Perhaps I’m missing some nuance, but it seems evident that if someone is working 7.5 hours in a shift the employer is getting a 30 minutes less labor than if they were working 8 hours. Whether its an assembly line, manning a work station of some sort, or answering phones, time “on break” is time not being productive.

I actually didn’t realize this varied by state, but I guess I should have guessed it did. My state’s labor website indicates:

Seems reasonable, though I think a lot of companies are more generous.

Yeah, and that’s the other reason I can’t just let it go. If it were just her, and no one else knew about it, I might be tempted to turn an eye, as it’s just one employee…

But, I really can’t, especially since it is very apparent that others are aware of this, so I either need to crack down on her, or accept that all my other employees will be taking extra long paid breaks.

I had an informal conversation with her about it about a month ago, and have had 2 written counseling sessions since. I don’t want to lose her, as this is really the only thing that she does that is in violation of policy, and she does do a very good job, but it’s a pretty important policy, and her violations amount to theft and lying, and I cannot accept that from an employee.

That’s why I was hoping I could develop a compromise. I really hate letting people go after I’ve invested in them.

OTOH, she is actually my highest paid employee, so if she goes, I can afford to give everyone a bit of a raise, which is always good for morale, hopefully enough to offset the morale hit you always take whenever you fire anyone.

Yes, I understand that. But the job apparently doesn’t require a strict straight 8 hours of work to make the same amount of money for the business.

I’m saying like “Your work hours are 9:00 to 5:00. 30 minutes of that time, you can have lunch or smoke or whatever, as long as there are not clients waiting” You still pay the guy for 8 hours, but 30 minutes of that is break. Would that cost the business money? And not a “theoretical” basis, but the actual real bottom line of the business for the month.

If a groomer doesn’t have scissors in her hands and a dog on the table, I’m not making money. It does not need to be 8 hours straight, I have a few people that only work 4-5 hours, a few that work 8ish, and a couple (me and my sister) who work 12ish.

But, the point is, if they aren’t working, I’m not making money. It’s not a desk job or a reception job (that’s me!) it’s a job that requires work.

So yes, if a groomer has scissors (or clippers, or comb, or whatever it is they are doing at the time) in her hand and a dog on the table for 8 hours, I will make more money than I will if she has a dog on the table for only 7.5 hours.

Now, those are “-ish” times, as they get done with each dog as they get done. Some take longer than others. Some days we get a few more no shows than expected, and the day ends up being shorter.

It is the time that I am paying them, but they are not being productive that I am concerned about here. That has a very real impact on my actual bottom line at the end of the day, then end of the week, and the end of the month.

Well, that’s really the nut of the problem. Either she’s doing a very good job, or she’s stealing and lying. If you want to have a policy, you pretty much have to enforce it, otherwise you open yourself up accusations of selective punishment.

Isn’t there some sort of time clock software available (or an actual time clock) where your employees would clock out for breaks, then clock back in?

I’ve seen this approach used by at least one of my employers in the past. During breaks, you were clocked out after 15 minutes if you weren’t at your desk. But that was many years ago.

However, in reading the the first link you posted this section caught my eye.

A key phrase in both those links is “required to work”. If they are required to work and are not, presumably you are taking corrective action (e.g. each time they do it, they’re a step closer to termination). If you choose not to take corrective action, they are not required to work and therefore are not required to be paid. On the flip side, if they are working, but not required to be, they have to be paid.

Consider a cheaper replacement and a smaller raise all around. Getting some more money and not having to do too much more work would make me a happy camper.

And don’t bet on a morale drop with the action; you could be surprised. Ages ago at another job the bosses all thought we loved our one co-worker and they were actually afraid to cut him. When they did we had a massive going away party ----- the day after his last day ---- just basically for ourselves. He was a great guy and we loved eating lunch with him but no-one, and I mean NO-ONE wanted to work anywhere near him and we were all much happier with him gone. Us peasants surprise you capitalist dogs like that sometimes. :slight_smile:

It is very odd that the United States which is a nation founded by people escaping poverty, does not have normal labour laws. Can anyone explain that?

In my country every person has the right to tea breaks and lunch breaks. And if we are dismissed we have the right to make an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal. This doesn’t happen often because employers must treat employees fairly.

Hard to argue with. Why not the USA?

Every employer must abide the federally mandated labor laws.

States, however, are free to make their own labor laws as they see fit. As noticed upthread, employees in the OP’s state have less protections than employees residing in CA.

Some states require 2 15-minute breaks AND a 30-minute meal period within an 8-hour period while others require only one 15-minute and 1 30-minute.

In my experience breaks/lunch are enforced or not depending on the nature of the business. Larger companies will enforce them unless it’s a retail business and there’s what’s called a “rush” of customers. Small businesses and food service will try but depending on the ebb/flow of customers, an employee cannot be promised that s/he gets one or the other. Unless something has changed, that’s how I’ve always understood it.

You can ask your lawyer, ( or your state department of labor) but it seems pretty clear to me. You don’t have to provide any breaks at all, and you must pay for breaks of less than 20 minutes. If a break is longer than 30 minutes, you don’t need to pay for any of it. There isn’t any reason to think you couldn’t pay for a half of a 30 minute break. In fact, I think policies that prohibit hybrid breaks do so for the opposite reason - so that the company doesn’t have to pay for the break at all. For example ,at my job people can take 30 minutes, 45 minutes or an hour for lunch. But everyone must work 7.5 hours a day and you can’t combine a discretionary paid break with your lunch - you have to paid for a break that is less than 20 minutes, but taking 45 minutes for lunch is a single unpaid break , not a paid 15 minute break combined with an unpaid 30 minute break.

Fair enough man, just seems overly complicated for no reason to me. But I’ve only had 1 hourly wage job my entire life, as a waiter when I was in high school. I went to work, clocked in, and then prepped for dinner. But after that, the cook and I just sat around “on break” for 30 minutes or so waiting for the first customer. I was still getting paid, but still just waiting. It would be overly complicated for my boss to require me to “clock out” during that time and then “clock in” when the first customer came in.

If you are saying that your groomers, from the second they clock in until the second they clock out are actively doing stuff because you have that many clients, then that’s good for you. I don’t see how you could even fit an unpaid break into that time. I guess I’m just used to salaried positions, where I get paid for 8 hours, and as long as everything gets done it’s cool if I go get coffee or smoke or whatever.

Glad your business is doing good though!

I’ve wondered that myself quite a few times. The usual explanations seem to involve ignorance on how worker unfriendly their labour laws are compared to the rest of the western world, a strong belief that moral worth is tied to economic success, rah rah capitalism rah rah, and calling anyone who questions it a socialist or a commie.