Can a company tell you you have to leave your desk for paid breaks? There is not a specified area for these breaks, but we were informed we “can not” stay at our desks for breaks, or for that matter lunch, which is an unpaid lunch. This is a high security facility, and if we are forced to leave our desks for a break in the “lunch room” can we make them find us a place for our breaks. The smokers get special privileges and area for their break. Is there a way we can make them do the same for us non smokers that like to sit at our desks and read ???
In short, yes. I’m not sure, if you are sent to take breaks in the lunch room, why you would need a special break area.
My bet is that your employer has had a problem with employees working during their breaks. People don’t generally think that it’s a big deal if they answer the phone, answer a co-worker’s question or respond to a quick e-mail during break. After all, it’s good for business and good not a big deal.
Except, it’s a huge deal for the company. If you are a non-exempt employee (overtime eligible) and you do ANY work off the clock the company can be in big legal and financial trouble.
Your company is probably trying to ensure that there is no misunderstanding–when you are on break you are NOT working. If you are “forced” to go to a lunch room for breaks and lunches, there is no way for you to claim, “I always worked through breaks.”
You can read in the lunch room.
As for the smokers, well it’s pretty obvious that when they are standing outside in the pouring rain, desperately puffing that they aren’t working. Just hope they are clocking out before each of their smoke breaks.
Sorry that it’s not the answer you wanted.