Can I Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits For An Injury That Happens While I Am On Break?
Many different types of jobs in Florida, from part-time jobs paid hourly to full-time salaried positions, have clearly demarcated break periods for employees when they have been working for a specific amount of time. In many white-collar jobs with a typical nine-to-five schedule, employees will have lunch breaks. In other types of employment, including hourly wage positions and those with less traditional schedules, employees also may have meal breaks and other types of rest periods. While meal breaks (typically 30 minutes or longer) and rest periods (typically between 5 and 20 minutes, according to the U.S. Department of Labor) are not required under federal or Florida state law, when employers do provide meal or rest breaks, they must abide by certain rules.
What do these rest breaks and meal periods have to do with workers’ compensation in Florida? Employees can sustain injuries while they are on a rest break or meal period. If you got hurt at your workplace during a rest break or meal period, you are likely wondering: can I receive workers’ compensation benefits for an injury that happened while I was on a work break? The answer depends upon the circumstances surrounding your injury. Accordingly, it will be important to seek advice about the particular facts of your case from a Sunrise workers’ compensation lawyer.
Understanding Rest and Meal Breaks Under Federal Law
In order to understand whether your break-time injury may be compensable, it is important to gain a better understanding of how the law treats rest and meal breaks. Florida does not have any state-specific laws that provide more rights to employees concerning break time than federal law, so Florida employees’ rights in this regard are governed by federal law (in states where state law provides more rights to an employee than federal law does, state law applies).
Federal law requires employers to compensate employees for short rest periods of typically 20 minutes or less. Such rest breaks can include a coffee break, snack time, or other short period of rest. Employers are not required to compensate employees of meal periods that last 30 minutes or more, but in order not to compensate an employee for a meal period, that longer break must be what the law calls a “bona fide” meal period in which the employee cannot be asked to perform any work tasks at all, no matter how small. If an employee is asked to do even a minor task during his or her meal break, the break must be compensated. How do these distinctions affect workers’ compensation claims during rest or meal breaks? To receive workers’ compensation benefits, you must have been acting within the scope of your employment. The way the law considers meal and rest breaks helps to clarify whether you are acting in the scope of your employment while on a rest or meal break.
Are Rest and Meal Breaks Compensable?
Generally speaking, injuries that happen on rest breaks should be compensable through the Florida workers’ compensation system unless you did something during your rest break that constitutes a substantial deviation from the scope of your employment. Since you are paid for short rest breaks, as long as your behavior did not substantially deviate from the court of your employment during the break, you should be eligible to obtain compensation.
Meal breaks are slightly more complicated since employees are not compensated for these breaks and they are considered to be on their own time. However, there are numerous circumstances in which a meal break might result in workers’ compensation eligibility when an injury occurs during a meal period. If the meal is not a bona fide meal period and you were performing a task for your employer when the injury occurred, you can certainly seek workers’ compensation benefits. Yet even on a bona fide meal break, you may be able to obtain compensation for an injury and should seek advice from a lawyer.
Contact a Sunrise Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you have questions about workers’ compensation benefits during a meal or rest period, our South Florida workers’ compensation attorneys can help. Contact the Law Offices of David M. Benenfeld, P.A. for more information.