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September 30, 2021
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In Gelber v. Akal Security, Inc., the Eleventh Circuit stated that an automatic meal period deduction for compensable air travel time violated the FLSA. Specifically, where time is deemed work time that is compensable, employers may not deduct pay from that time.
There, employees worked on a flight on the destination leg, but had no active work duties while traveling on return flight from the destination. On flights lasting longer than 90 minutes, the employer automatically deducted one hour from each shift as a “meal period.” Although employees could spend their time how they wanted on return flights (e.g., tv, video games, mediation, etc.), they were engaged in waiting time while on the return flight and they had continuing duties once the return flight landed.
The court said that a burden-shifting scheme applies in meal-break cases and that, once an employee satisfies their burden by showing that their logged work hours are generally compensable, the employer bears the burden of proving that the carved-out meal periods were bona fide. Because the employees were engaged in the inactive duty of waiting during the return flight, the employer could not show that the employees were relieved of duty during the unpaid meal period.
- Review meal and rest policies for compliance.
- Update timekeeping and payroll procedures, as applicable.
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