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Do employees who use FMLA breaks also need paid breaks?

Your employee has a medical condition that requires several short breaks throughout the day. He was granted intermittent, unscheduled breaks under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). A few times during the work day, he takes a brief rest break.

Under the FMLA, these breaks are not paid. However, he has also been taking paid breaks with his coworkers. During an eight-hour shift, he will sit out for two more 15-minute breaks on the company's dime.

Employees, breaks, and the FMLA

As an employer, you are probably wondering whether these two additional breaks are necessary. The FMLA does allow some employees who have qualifying medical conditions to take rest breaks as needed throughout the day. If these breaks are due to the employee's health issue, employers do not have to pay for the time.

But employees who take breaks granted by FMLA are still entitled to the same number of paid breaks as their coworkers who have not used FMLA. For example, if your company grants employees two paid 15-minute rest breaks and a 30-minute paid lunch break, employees who take FMLA-protected breaks must also receive these.

Options for employers

The laws regarding issues like hours, breaks, and wages can vary widely depending on industry and jurisdiction. Employers must comply with these laws in addition to the FMLA. It is important for employers to be careful when addressing issues like FMLA-protected breaks. No employer wants to inadvertently violate FMLA and face legal consequences as a result. Because the issue of paid versus unpaid breaks can be complicated, many companies work with an employment lawyer who can help navigate FMLA and employee breaks. 

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