In an opinion letter issued on April 12, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor concluded that 15-minute breaks throughout the day required by an employee’s serious health condition are not compensable—notwithstanding the general rule that breaks of 20 minutes or less are to be paid.  The agency explained the exception as follows:

[R]est breaks up to 20 minutes in length are generally compensable because the breaks predominantly benefit the employer.  Such breaks are “common in industry,” “promote the efficiency of the employee,” and “are customarily paid for as working time.”  29 C.F.R. § 785.18.  The specific FMLA-protected breaks described in [the opinion] letter, however, differ significantly from ordinary rest breaks commonly provided to employees.  … [T]he 15-minute breaks at issue here “are required eight times per day and solely due to the needs of the employee’s serious health condition as required under the FMLA.” Because the FMLA-protected breaks described in your letter are given to accommodate the employee’s serious health condition, the breaks predominantly benefit the employee and are noncompensable.  … [T]he FMLA itself further confirms that employees are not entitled to compensation for the FMLA-protected breaks described in [the] letter.  Indeed, the FMLA expressly provides that FMLA-protected leave may be unpaid.

The DOL noted, however, that employees who take FMLA-protected breaks must receive as many compensable rest breaks as their otherwise similarly-situated coworkers receive.

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Photo of Allan Bloom Allan Bloom

Allan Bloom is the co-chair of Proskauer’s Labor & Employment Law Department and a nationally recognized litigator and advisor who represents employers, business owners, and management in a broad range of employment and labor law matters. As a litigator, Allan has successfully defended…

Allan Bloom is the co-chair of Proskauer’s Labor & Employment Law Department and a nationally recognized litigator and advisor who represents employers, business owners, and management in a broad range of employment and labor law matters. As a litigator, Allan has successfully defended many of the world’s leading companies against claims for unpaid wages, employment discrimination, breach of contract and wrongful discharge, both at the trial and appellate court levels as well as in arbitration, before government agencies, and in private negotiations. He has secured complete defense verdicts for clients in front of juries, as well as injunctions to protect clients’ confidential information and assets.

As the leader of Proskauer’s Wage and Hour Practice Group, Allan has been a strategic partner to a number of Fortune 500 companies to help them avoid, minimize and manage exposure to wage and hour-related risk. Allan’s views on wage and hour issues have been featured in The New York Times, Reuters, Bloomberg and Fortune, among other leading publications. His class-action defense work for clients has saved billions of dollars in potential damages.

Allan is regularly called on to advise operating companies, management companies, fund sponsors, boards of directors and senior leadership on highly sensitive matters including executive and key person transitions, internal investigations and strategic workforce planning. He has particular expertise in the financial services industry, where he has litigated, arbitrated, and mediated disputes for more than 20 years.

A prolific author and speaker, Allan was the Editor of the New York State Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Law Journal from 2012 to 2017. He has served as an author, editor and contributor to a number of leading treatises in the field of employment law, including ADR in Employment Law (ABA/Bloomberg BNA), Employment Discrimination Law (ABA/Bloomberg BNA), Cutting Edge Advances in Resolving Workplace Disputes (Cornell University/CPR), The Employment Law Review (Law Business Research, U.S. Chapter Author), and The Complete Compliance and Ethics Manual (SCCE).

Allan has served as longtime pro bono counsel to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and The Public Theater, among other nonprofit organizations.  He is a past Vice Chair of Repair the World, a nonprofit organization that mobilizes volunteers and their communities to take action to pursue a just world, and a past recipient of the Lawyers Alliance Cornerstone Award for extraordinary contributions through pro bono legal services.

Allan is a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and has been recognized as a leading practitioner by Chambers since 2011.