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A Time Card App Can Automatically Deduct Lunch Time, But Is It Legal?

Posted: January 22, 2022 at 8:25 am / by / comments (0)

Making sure you keep everything on the up and up within your company is essential to staying in business. This includes staying labor law compliant. A time card app offers many benefits and features that make staying compliant easier, but not all features may be beneficial.

One such feature is the automatic deduction of lunch time from an employee’s work hours. Understanding how automatic lunchtime deductions work and whether or not it’s legal to do so will save your business several headaches in terms of compliance.

Unfortunately, the rules for what is legal and what isn’t aren’t as clear-cut as you’d expect. This article will examine how the law for time deductions works and how a time card app can help you stay labor law complaint.

Photo by Matilda Wormwood from Pexels

Understanding State vs. Federal Rules

While specific labor laws are set in stone no matter where your business operates, not all rules are enforced by everyone, and some states have laws that are not enforced at the federal level. Dealing with varying requirements means that you must understand both sets of laws for your business to remain compliant.

In terms of automatic lunchtime deductions, using a time and attendance app to track this information is legal on a federal level. Federal law does not mandate specific break times or how the break must be tracked. However, this does not mean that automatic time deductions are legal in every state.

In fact, many states require that employees are given specific amounts of time off, and automatically deducting time from an employee’s time card can result in a violation. For instance, in some states, employers are mandated to provide employees with a minimum of a 30-minute lunch break after 5 hours of work.

In other states, there is no requirement for meal breaks at all. This makes using a time card app for automatic break deductions a bit of a game of chance when it comes to keeping accurate employee time and remaining compliant.

Fair Labor Standards Act vs. Department of Labor

There are essentially two sets of guidelines that employees and businesses have to look out for when deciding whether or not their employees are to be given lunch breaks. The Department of Labor mandates that employees are paid for all the time they are on the job clock, even if that work is done during what is supposed to be break time.

Conversely, if employees are given break time, the rules that must be followed fall under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Fair Labor Standards Act does not have specific regulations regarding breaks, but certain guidelines must be followed.

Any breaks under 30 minutes in length are considered longer breaks (typically, this constitutes lunch breaks), and they do not have to be paid to the worker. In this situation, using a time keeper app to deduct breaks automatically is entirely acceptable. Breaks under 30 minutes, however, must be paid to the employee.

For a break to be unpaid, though, the worker must be completely relieved of all duties, officially “off the clock,” if you will. Any violation of this rule would result in the employee needing to be paid for that time.

Should You Automatically Deduct Time?

There is no definitive answer to whether or not you should automatically deduct lunches using a timesheet management app. It’s important to know what state law mandates and determine the best way to track lunches for your business.

Although, in most cases, if employees are given breaks, it is better to schedule them for the time and let them clock out and deduct the time manually to avoid compliance issues. Since state and federal laws are often in conflict, this is the safest way to ensure that employees are treated fairly and your business stays compliant.

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