Give Me A Break…Please!
By Mary Jacoby Hastings
Unlike Right to Work states such as Virginia and the Carolinas, Colorado is a Work at Will state (the employee works at the will of the employer: employer or employee may terminate employment at any time, without notice and for no reason) giving employers the right to fire employees and determine time off at-will.
As far as providing time off for hours worked, Colorado law requires employers to provide a half hour for every five hours worked for mealtime, except when the workday will be completed in six hours or less. An on-duty meal period can be counted as time worked and permitted when the nature of the work prevents relief from all duties.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require breaks or meal periods be given to workers. The Feds take a back seat to individual states allowing them to set laws with regard to payment for time not worked, such as vacations, sick leave or holidays (federal or otherwise).
The U.S. Department of Labor says, “These benefits are a matter of agreement between an employer and an employee (or the employee's representative).”
Unfortunately, too many employers use these laws, or lack thereof, to press employees into working without adequate breaks. Smart employers understand that allowing break time during the work day means employees have opportunities to re-energize and are therefore much more productive.
Colorado law also says, “employers must provide a paid 10-minute rest period for each 4-hour work period or major fraction thereof; as practicable, in middle of each work period;” however, this only applies to the following industries: retail trade, food and beverage, public housekeeping, medical profession, beauty service, laundry and dry cleaning and janitorial service industries. Certain occupations, such as teacher, nurse, and other medical professionals are excluded.
Isn’t it reassuring to know that the nurse assigned to your care or a lab technician in the hospital may have just worked a double shift with very few breaks, if any? (Sarcasm intended.)
There is a new provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act that requires employers to provide nursing mothers with reasonable break time and a private space for expressing breast milk while at work. This new provision — the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law — became law when the Affordable Care Act was signed by the president in March 2010. The provision responds to a reality that many women face when they return to work after having a baby.
So, if the medical professional assigned to your care in the hospital is a nursing mother, at least you’ll know they’ve had some time off the clock. Whew