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Be wary of unpaid rest breaks for nonexempt employees

Watercooler discussions. Coffee breaks. Calls to check on the kids. Text messaging.

Watercooler discussions. Coffee breaks. Calls to check on the kids. Text messaging.

These activities in the workplace are routinely seen throughout the workday.

What is your company philosophy on these personal breaks?

Is your company one that sees this as commonplace, good for employee relations and necessary time for your employees to regroup and refocus?

Or is your company one that views this as disruptive and an ever-growing problem that affects your bottom line?

Whatever your philosophy on these personal breaks, it is not uncommon for these activities to trigger internal conversations about how to control the number, frequency and timing of breaks taken in order to maximize the time spent by employees performing their job duties.

This discussion often leads to the implementation of policies and procedures designed to encourage and improve the productivity of employees but not negatively affect morale.

This is a delicate balance for employers. In striking this balance, it is paramount that any policy implemented on breaks must comply with applicable federal and state laws.

This is illustrated in a recent decision by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania relating to an employer’s policy dealing with rest breaks.

In that case, the employer, American Future Systems Inc., doing business as Progressive Business Publications, had a policy in place that allowed sales representatives in its call centers to take rest breaks at any time for any reason.

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