An employee cannot be productive for a full shift without breaks. Because regular breaks during the workday are so important to employees’ health and company productivity, many employers build breaks and meals into workers’ schedules. In fact, some states have even enacted laws requiring employers to do so. Texas is not one of those states.
Taking Lunch Breaks in Texas
Texas labor laws do not require employers to provide workers any breaks at all, with one notable exception: breastfeeding mothers. Women who breastfeed are permitted to take 30-minute lunch breaks.
Otherwise, breaks in Texas work like this: the employer has the discretion to determine whether to provide breaks. Employers may not provide breaks in a discriminatory manner. In other words, if an employer provides breaks, he cannot deny them to specific employees on the basis of their sex, race, disability, national origin, age or religion.
Understanding Texas Labor Laws
Under Texas labor laws, your employer has no obligation to provide you with a break. If your employer does provide breaks during your work day, you must be paid during your breaks.
Meal breaks are a different situation. Like shorter rest breaks, your employer is not required to provide meal breaks. Breaks in Texas are governed by the federal requirements included in the Fair Labor Standards Act. However, if your employer does provide meal breaks of 30 minutes or longer, she is not required to pay you for your time while on break. She also cannot require you to work through your lunch without paying you to do so. If you are permitted to take a 30-minute break but choose to take an hour-long lunch break, your employer is not required to compensate you for the additional 30 minutes you were not working.
Reporting Violations to the Texas Labor Board
The Texas labor board, officially known as the Texas Workforce Commission, is the state agency tasked with enforcing labor laws and handling reports from employees who feel their rights were violated. Whistleblowers who experience mistreatment and unethical practices in their workplaces can also make their reports to the Texas labor board.
If your employer provides breaks during the workday, you must be paid for the time you spend on break. Your employer can refuse to permit breaks, but he cannot provide them without paying you during them. The breaks you take at work are part of your workday. If your employer refuses to pay you during your breaks, you may file a wage and hour violation complaint to seek compensation for the wages you were denied. Additionally, requiring you to work while you are on an unpaid meal break is also a violation of your rights. An experienced employment lawyer can explain your workplace rights in greater detail and help you determine whether legal action is warranted in a situation like this.
In Texas, federal laws regarding meal and rest breaks during the workday apply.
Lindsay Kramer is a freelance writer and editor who has been working in the legal niche since 2012. Her primary focus areas within this niche are family law and personal injury law. Lindsay works closely with a few legal marketing agencies, providing blog posts, website content and marketing materials to law firms across the United States.