Can break periods be deducted from wages?

On Behalf of | Jan 15, 2015 | Employment Law

Wisconsin employees may want to be aware of their rights as they begin a new job to ensure that there is no confusion with regard to break periods. An employer’s handling of break periods may affect the manner in which one’s paid time is computed, and the age of a worker makes a difference in how certain standards are applied as well.

State employment law requires that those under the age of 18 be provided a minimum break of 30 minutes if the work period is six hours or longer. This meal period should be duty-free. A duty-free lunch period does not count as paid time. Although shorter breaks are not required by Wisconsin law, they may be offered by an employer.

Any authorized break that is less than 30 minutes is considered to be work time. A short break cannot be deducted from an employee’s wages. Such short breaks are recommended by the state’s government, but they are not required. Meal breaks of at least 30 minutes are encouraged and should ideally occur close to the typical meal period. However, this is a matter that is to be decided between employers and their workers. If a meal period is less than the minimum of 30 minutes, it must be considered as paid time. Similarly, if an employee must continue to work during their meal period, it is not considered duty-free and must be counted as work time.

An individual who believes that wages have been withheld due to break periods may want to review time sheets to compare hours paid to hours recorded. In some cases, it is possible that a miscalculation on the employee’s part has occurred. In other cases, a legitimate error may need to be brought to the attention of the payroll department. Failure of the company to correct such an error might be reason for filing a wage claim with the state’s Equal Rights Division.

Source Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, “Labor Standards – Breaks and Meals”, accessed on Jan. 9, 2015

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