The US Department of Labor filed suit against an employer in Perez v American Future Systems, INC. d/b/a Progressive Business Publications, claiming the employer unlawfully required non-exempt sales employees working in their call center to log off and not be paid for any break time taken by the employees during the work day. These include rests and bathroom breaks that only last a few minutes at the most. The employer’s policy permits employees to take “personal breaks at any time for any reason, but these breaks were unpaid. Any time by the employee not spent working, regardless of the length of the break was to be unpaid.
The court supported its decision finding a Department of Labor regulation on the issue to be persuasive. This regulation essentially stated that rest periods of short length are common in the industry and promote efficiency. The regulation further stated these types of breaks are normally paid for and considered as hours worked. This decision is important because it puts employers on notice that these short breaks should be considered hours worked and warns employers they can be liable in the event they try to discourage employees from taking such breaks.