On August 25, 2010, a federal district court in Illinois held that hundreds of employees at a nursing home chain may proceed in a class action lawsuit to recover lost overtime wages. The thrust of the employees’ claim is that their employer automatically deducted one-half hour in the middle of their shifts for a mandatorily required meal break. The employees allege that they sometimes performed work duties during their meal break and those hours were not counted as hours worked in a work week for purposes of overtime calculations.
Given the increased activity in class action lawsuits for overtime pay, you would be well served to ensure that your payroll practice of automatically deducting time for a meal break is squeaky clean. Although requiring employees to clock-in and clock-out for their meal breaks may require more work for your payroll department, counter that inconvenience with the real inconvenience of defending against a class action lawsuit and trying to prove that employees really did not work during their meal breaks. While you’re at it, ensure that your rounding procedures for clock-times do not favor the company or the employees.