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The Easiest Way to Stay Compliant with Lunch Break Laws

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Lunch is no joke. For managers and companies looking to stay compliant with the ever-growing mish-mash of contract, local, state and federal lunch break laws – the idea of the lunch break isn’t even all that relaxing.

Nearly half the states mandate lunch breaks for certain employees, each with its own set of requirements. For example, California requires a half hour lunch break after five hours working, unless the workday doesn’t go longer than six hours, while also allowing employees to waive their right to a second lunch break for a 12-hour shift. It’s California – the law is complicated.

Then there’s Nebraska that requires a half hour lunch break – off premises, for each eight-hour shift, unless the collective bargaining agreement or written employee contract provides otherwise. OK, all these state lunch break laws are complicated.

The easiest way to stay compliant with lunch break laws is to use a time and attendance system that helps you enforce your applicable lunch break rules. The system does much more than ensuring that time working and time on lunch are tracked accurately, as critical as that is.

Block lunch break punches that would put you at risk

You can configure your time and attendance system to prevent employees from punching in or out when they shouldn’t. Your managers have scheduled all workers on-shift with the required half hour lunch break. These lunch breaks have been staggered to ensure that enough workers are still on the job at any given time. According to your schedule, you’re compliant, maintaining necessary staffing levels while providing enough lunch time for all.

But then various employees…

  •      Try to punch out for lunch at an unscheduled time
  •      Try to punch in early from lunch, without taking the full half hour
  •      Try to punch in late from lunch, taking longer than their half hour

Any of these scenarios are noncompliance risks. A system that prevents employees from punching out for lunch at the wrong time or trying to punch in early acts as reminders to employees to stick to the schedule and take their time. It also gives managers a real-time opportunity to redress the issue. When someone tries to punch out at an unscheduled time, the system can send a real-time alert to the manager, who can keep the worker on schedule.

For the employees trying to return late from lunch, the time clock display can be configured to direct them to see their manager in order to punch in. This not only cuts down on extended lunches, but also ensures that workers don’t get paid for time they were on lunch when they should’ve been working.

Allow the punch, but get the attestation

Blocking punches can be effective, but also comes with the risk of employees taking their lunch breaks without punching in and out at all. A remedy for this is to allow a bad punch (in some cases), but include an employee attestation for the punch.

For example, if an employee punches in early from lunch, the time keeping system can display a message saying that the employee attests that they’re punching in early despite being scheduled with fully compliant lunch break. This attestation doesn’t mean the employer doesn’t have to pay for time actually worked. It does mean that it’s clear the employee was scheduled for a full break and provides a real-time alert and audit trail for managers and HR to address the issue with those wishing to clock in early.

A late-return punch can include an attestation that the employee acknowledges they’ve returned late and are only paid for hours worked. Then the manager can review the punch reports to deal with late lunch returns at a later date.

Avoid the no-lunch break employee

A time and attendance system can also send real-time alerts to managers when a scheduled employee hasn’t clocked for lunch on schedule.  These kinds of alerts help managers avoid accusations of no lunch breaks being provided or help uncover when people are taking unscheduled lunch breaks without punching out.

Unfortunately, the burden of complying with these lunch break laws and tracking lunch break time accurately falls entirely on employers. It’s one reason why wage and hour lawsuits filed under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are booming. The FLSA doesn’t even mandate employers to provide lunch breaks, but it will come down on employers who don’t track and pay them accurately.

Don’t be that employer. Get control over your time and attendance tracking and give your managers more tools for managing employees. Contact Accu-Time Systems to see a demo how you can use a time and attendance solution to comply with your lunch break laws.

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