unpaid minimum wage

Employee Payment for Rest and Meal Periods under Ohio and Federal Law

As an initial matter, it may come as a surprise that Federal and Ohio law generally do not require employers to provide rest or meal breaks to employees. One exception is Ohio Revised Code § 4109.07(C), which provides that minors must be allowed a rest period of at least thirty minutes for a shift of more than five hours.

Nonetheless, many employers allow or require employees to take rest or meal breaks, either paid or unpaid. Breaks are important for employee morale, and provide the required sustenance and physical respite to make it through the workday.

Unpaid Meal Periods under Ohio Wage Law and the Federal FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act)

Employees must be paid for all meal periods that are not “bona fide”. Bona fide meal periods are breaks during which employees are completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating a meal.

unpaid overtime wages rest periods meal breaks

Employees must actually be relieved from duty if an employer doesn’t pay for meal periods – Workers generally must be paid if they are required to eat at their desk or machine, answer phones, respond to work-related inquiries or emails, or engage in any other duties.

Damages can add up even over short periods of time when employers don’t properly pay for non-bonafide meal periods.

For example, if an employer requires a worker to be at work 8 ½ hours each weekday with an unpaid ½ hour lunch period, but the employee works through lunch, the employee is entitled to 2 ½ hours of unpaid time at the end of the workweek (½ hour x 5 days). Since the employee worked 42 ½ hours during the workweek, and Ohio and Federal Law require workers to be paid time-and-a-half for all hours over 40 hours, there is an unpaid overtime violation.

Unpaid Rest Periods under Ohio Wage Law and the FLSA

Rest periods of 5 to 20 minutes are common in industry, promote efficiency, and generally should be paid as working time. If an employer does not pay workers for taking short breaks for things such as coffee or eating snacks, or to use the bathroom, the employer may be violating Ohio and Federal law entitling the employee to back pay, liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees.

This all being said, it is important to note that Federal law only allows recovery of unpaid overtime for a period of up to 3 years in the case of willful violations, and 2 years for non-willful violations. Therefore, it is important for employees to exercise their rights to be paid properly promptly.

If you have not been paid for all time worked McDermott Law LLC may be able to help. Feel free to call (216) 367-9181 for a Free Consultation and to discuss your options with a Licensed Attorney.

The Wrongs of Working off the Clock

Let us start by saying that common sense and our universal understanding morality tell us that people deserve to be paid what they earn. Forcing someone to work for free or for a subminimum wage not only goes against Congress’s directive but a civilized society’s understanding of what is right and wrong. In the employment context, however, it is far too common for employers to deny employees all wages for all hours worked. This can occur because of an employer’s simple oversight on one end to on the other an employer's willful scheme to deprive workers wages to increase the bottom line. An employer’s unlawful failure to pay for time worked can take many forms, including:

unpaid overtime clock
  • Forcing employees to answer phone calls after hours without compensation;
  • Refusing to pay employees for travel time when the destination is greater than the time it takes to get to the usual place of work or refusing to pay for travel time during the workday;
  • Requiring employees to arrive at work before the shift starting time. For example, where an employer requires employees to arrive at the workplace 15 minutes before the scheduled start time without pay;
  • Failing to pay employees for the time it takes to suit up a uniform in some circumstances;
  • Making paycheck deductions automatically for lunch breaks even though the employee does not always take a break or works through the lunch break;
  • Rounding employee start times and end times predominantly to the employer’s benefit;
  • Making seemingly random deductions to paychecks;
  • A policy of reducing wages or refusing to pay for employees to attend mandatory meetings or voluntary meetings that ultimately benefit the employer.

The examples above are only a few cases where employees have successfully sued and got back their wrongfully withheld wages. Ohio and Federal Law affords employees the right to recover unpaid wages and in some cases an additional one or two times unpaid wages. Furthermore, in many cases employees are entitled to attorney’s fees and the costs to bring an unpaid wage claim, including in cases involving unpaid overtime compensation and where the employer fails to pay minimum wage for all hours worked.

If you have not been paid for all time worked Attorney Kevin M. McDermott II can help. Call McDermott Law LLC at (216) 367-9181 for a Free Consultation and to discuss your options.